Newton Falls – There’s a relatively new trend emerging in the business world called the “3rd Place” and it has nothing to do with bronze medals.

Store owners have recognized the need for a space that people can come to and temporarily “forget” their responsibilities, or at the very least set them aside for a brief time. Typically, in daily life there is the home place and then there is the workplace, both of which harbor duties that need to be done and to-do lists longer than Santa’s delivery notes. The “3rd Place” serves as that middle ground, an in-between rest stop, a limbo of sorts where the sink full of dishes isn’t calling your name or the files on your desk aren’t threatening to bury you under their impending avalanche. Though the concept may seem like nothing novel to the centuries of townsfolk who stopped at the local watering hole for a nightcap or to shoot a game of pool before heading home from a hard day’s work, the modern 3rd Place ideally doesn’t require opening a tab or the upfront admission fee that is a cover charge at the door.There’s a relatively new shop in Newton Falls that hopes to provide that perfect “3rd Place” for customers to come and chat with other likeminded people, be creative, whether by sketching or writing or storytelling or playing games and, above all, feeling comfortable by just being who they are. Opened in June by husband and wife team Robert W. Barry and Angela Carina Barry, the Guild House Oasis is the latest addition to the landscape of the main street of downtown and is unlike any other business the shopping district offers.

In one corner of the quaint shop is a reading nook, in the other corner a small television equipped with a video gaming console and controllers, and in between the two are all manner of board games, card games, and role-playing games (RPGs) for sale or for immediate play at one of the shop’s tables filling the remainder of the space. And, as if grabbing your new favorite game and having a friendly go of it wasn’t enough, there’s something extra-special going on practically every day whether it is Monday’s focus on art and writing with anime showings in the evening, or the book club on Tuesdays at 5pm. Blocks of time are set aside for tutoring on Wednesday afternoons, so if there’s a particular subject that needs a bit of attention, feel free to swing by for a supportive fresh perspective. For a full schedule, stop in at the shop and say hello or make a suggestion for an upcoming activity. While you’re there you may even find a last-minute holiday gift for that unique person on your list such as original drawings from  aspiring local  artists decorating the walls, colorfully inspiring those who enter!

But the most important service this shop offers is not the array of tempting products (though those are certainly wonderful too), not those extra-shiny material belongings to take off the shelf and carry home, but rather the sense of belonging that is obtained simply by stepping through the door. It is a place where gamers, self-proclaimed book worms, and anime fans — anybody really — can be celebrated, appreciated, or just simply “let be” while they discover something new or enjoy a long-time hobby.

“We are here to entertain, educate, and provide a safe place where people can come together face to face,” Carina said, extending an invitation to explore. The Guild House Oasis strives to protect the atmosphere of acceptance no matter what one’s interests may be. Providing a forum where customers can come and interact in person promotes sportsmanship and develops social skills that are not obtainable through constantly staring at a computer screen and gaming online. There are also scientific studies that suggest that learning rules of games and putting them into practice may help keep the brain active and assuage the effects of medical ailments such as the onset of Alzheimer’s. Further, from an armchair psychologist’s standpoint, being accepted in a social setting of peers with similar interests can build confidence, and taking time away from the craziness that is daily life can lessen stress, but that’s an entirely non-scientific opinion.

The sanctuary reference in the name wasn’t an accident: Carina explains that an “oasis,” namely that in a desert, is a dwelling place in the middle of it all where seeds can be planted and nurtured. Then, as the oasis grows, more seeds can be planted and nurtured and as a result more tiny beginnings can sprout and take root.

Although it would appear that coffee shops or libraries would serve the same purpose as this type of 3rd Place, there are significant differences: though there are plenty of sparkly items to buy, and of course the business would love customers to make a purchase to enjoy afterhours, visitors won’t be kicked out for not buying an overpriced latte as a form of pseudo-office table rent. And there won’t be a terse “Shhh!” from a librarian for the offense of texting on a cell phone or excitedly exclaiming congratulations for a winning move. (To be fair, for the safety and enjoyment of everyone who seeks out the haven, the proprietors foster an alcohol-free, drug-free, and bully-free environment and reserve the right to politely request the removal of anyone who becomes too rowdy.)

With a little bit of luck, this little oasis in the middle of town may very well be the next flourishing dwelling place among the waterfalls.

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In addition to her role as a contributing reporter for the Weekly Villager, Mialie T. Szymanski is the creator of the bi-weekly column “Puppy Tails”. This children’s story time column stars Doodle Dog, a floppy-eared puppy who has an optimistic perspective of the world around him. Szymanski's picture book “Doodle Dog Enjoys the Day” chronicles a day in the life of this “paws”itive pup. The upcoming read-aloud anthology “Puppy Tails: Adventures of Doodle Dog” is a collection of the columns and illustrations as seen in The Weekly Villager over the last year.