In a town saturated with options for bookworms, Market Fresh Books stands out for its peculiar business model: used books are sold by the pound—$3.99 per pound, to be exact.
Co-owner Susan Frischer says the scale beside the register is the kind of peculiarity that she hopes customers will appreciate and subsequently return to when they need their next literature fix.
"We were trying to think of ways to be memorable and have people talk about the store—something unique," she said.
In addition, selling books by the pound makes the job that much easier for Frischer, who practically shudders at the prospect of individually pricing the thousands of books in the store's inventory.
Frischer brought Market Fresh to Evanston with her husband Paul in November, and the couple recently opened a second location just a block up the road from their original store on Davis Street.
For now, the Frischers will keep the doors open at both sites, but the new Church Street store is the permanent location if they should need to scale back the business.
"If we don't have something here, folks can just walk over there—it's three minutes away—and check if we have it there," Frischer said. "It's kind of like having a 4,000-square-foot store."
In addition to books, Market Fresh sells other assorted media, from CDs and DVDs to magazines and comics, and true to form, customers must look to the scale for sales totals on these items as well.
But Market Fresh is primarily in the business of books, and Frischer says Evanston is the perfect place for such an entrepreneurial endeavor.
"We think the community as a whole is very supportive and excited to see us here," she said. "Evanston is a community of readers."
Stroll through downtown Evanston on a Friday or Saturday night and it's not uncommon to find Market Fresh open past midnight, a courtesy to those insomniacs looking for a late-night read. Though Frischer makes no promises past 10 p.m., she says she has been known to keep the new location open until 2 a.m. when foot traffic downtown warrants it.
But on a Sunday afternoon, 22-year-old Kate Nylander wandered into the Church Street shop looking for used books and a little bit of "soul."
"These books have more soul," she said. "You read them and other people have already read them and loved them."
While Nylander acknolwedges she "will go in any bookstore," the Market Fresh business model received a favorable response from the self-professed bookworm.
"I think it's great," she said. "I think it's a really interesting concept, and it's very intriguing."
With bookstores throughout the city, a plethora of Internet vendors and the advent of the Kindle and other "e-readers," Frischer hopes customers will continue to find Market Fresh intriguing. However, she insists the used book market is not a zero-sum game.
"I think that our collection is different," she said, citing the store's goal of bringing customers the "freshest" used titles. "We like to think we're not competing with the other used book stores; we're basically complimenting what they have."