Tucked just behind the corner from Portland’s infamous Powell’s are several small boutiques specializing in coffee, records and compact discs, and even rugged American food. Reading Frenzy, a local independent press emporium, has been planted along this street since the early 90s. The store is known for its mixed-media portfolios called “zines,” comics, art, books, and ultimately, its Portland-based culture.
Reading Frenzy sells mostly independent and locally-printed merchandise. Although it specializes in several sorts of publications, the most defining object which stocks its shelves is the “zine.”
Harlan Mahaffy, an employee and comic-maker, said a zine could be “anything… all that defines it is that it’s self-published.”
Reading Frenzy serves as a collection and distribution center for zines, which can range from a whimsical five-page comic strip to a hundred-page collage of poetry bound together by string. Some zine makers bring in continued series or short-run comics.
“It’s more creatively-demanding than a book,” Mahaffy said.
Zine artists bring in their works and set the prices, which can range from 50 cents to $50, and the store then takes in 40 percent of sales.
The zine culture has been around for decades, but, according to Mahaffy, they sell just as well as they always have.
“There’s still a really strong zine community,” Mahaffy said, “but I can say that blogs have cut down on the amount of zines still being published.”
The store’s origins lie in a booth on Hawthorne Blvd. The original space was only 150 square feet; after realizing that floods could harm the business, the store’s owner, Chloe Eudaly, planned to make a move. Though Reading Frenzy is now located on the “Acorn Block,” it plans to relocate again.
According to Mahaffy, the store holds readings as “bi-monthly event(s),” but other events are also organized. These may include galleries or instructional showings demonstrating how to create various drinks. Events may also closely correspond with zines.
A new location will allow the store to host more events and make room for more merchandise.
“We’ll be shutting down sometime in February and opening back up sometime in March,” Eudaly, in a post on the Reading Frenzy website, said. “In the meantime we’ll be organizing a variety of fund raising efforts to finance our new space. “
Reading Frenzy attracts many people, including famous comic-creators and bohemians, from which Mahaffy draws a conclusion.
“I think we’re the most popular because we’re the coolest,” he said.