All right, at $3.99 a pound, those four are going to total up to $9.38.” Words from a store clerk? Of course. At the grocery store? Think again.
Those words were spoken at Market Fresh Books, a neophyte in Evanston’s downtown shopping district. Located at 602 Davis St., this used bookstore rivals others with its unique pricing on books, CDs, magazines, LPs, and other literary paraphernalia.
These bookmongers sell books by the pound. Evanstonians Susan and Paul Frischer created this novel concept as a way to make their online store, “heavytail” stand out. (“Heavytail” can be found on Alibris, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and eBay websites).
The front of the store is warm and inviting, featuring an array of the newest books today. A coffee stand sits in front of the counter, tempting the customer to browse for a while in the warmth.
The main room is filled with the titles in vogue, along with myriad fiction titles and memoirs. A small shelf is devoted to incunabula, which at $8.99 a pound seem like inexpensive jewels.
A small hallway filled with thrillers, political books, fantasy and horror stories opens into four more rooms.
The first is a children’s room, with books organized by genre and series (i.e. Mystery, Magic Tree House, etc.) One of MFB’s regular customers, a schoolteacher, browsed with her two children. “They have a lot of good books here,” she said.
Next comes the cookbook room, a veritable groaning board of culinary literature ranging from archives of Saveur magazine to Rachel Ray’s latest book. The classification is unique, with boxs and shelves filled up with groupings such as kosher food, slow-cooker recipes, potatoes and celebrity-endorsed books.
A little farther down the hall is a third room, which holds an appealing assortment of boxes, all full of the things that are not in the other rooms: empty address books, old magazines, journals, audio books, LPs, relationship books and uncategorized novels.
Enter the room farthest from Davis Street, and $12.99-a-pound CDs and a vending machine appear. But the only food here is the lollipops and sugar packets in the storefront. This vending machine sells books, ranging from Dan Brown’s “Angels and Demons” to Dr. Seuss’ “The Foot Book.” Paul says he and his family hope one day to find machines like this in train stations.
Ms. Frischer says many customers are drawn in by the store’s charming foyer. They come inside, discover the avoirdupois weight pricing system, and, after a moment of confusion, they get excited. A day later, that customer’s friend comes in with a request for books from his or her book club and child’s school.
Market Fresh gets its books from various sources, such as library sales, state sales and donations from customers. They are also willing to buy used books from individuals.
“What really surprised me was that there is no one genre that sells best. Everything sells. Once an unabridged dictionary from 1930 was donated, and we thought, ‘Well, we’ll keep it,’ and then in less than a week it was gone,” Ms. Frischer comments.
Once in the store, it is easy to get lost in the comfy, captivating atmosphere. So if friends are heading to Market Fresh Books, tell them to be prepared they could be there a while.