On most mornings, University physics and astronomy professor J. Woods Halley can be spotted grading papers behind the counter at 8th Street Market.
The professor bought the market in April. He’s spent the last six months reestablishing the store while trying to balance his new job with his University work.
“I’m frantically busy,” said Halley, who teaches a graduate course and a freshman seminar named “How Likely is Extraterrestrial Life.”
“We’re still trying to get on our feet, but, in a way it’s been very stimulating,” he said.
Halley said there were several reasons for buying the market, which is located at 630 8th St. S.E., near his Marcy-Holmes home of more than 35 years.
Part of the decision, he said, had to do with his two sons – one 15 years old, one 19 – who expressed interest in the business and are working there part time.
Other factors included neighborhood concerns about the previous owner of the store failing to keep up appearances and adequately stocking the store, Halley said.
“There was concern in the neighborhood that the store was in trouble,” he said. “It was not in every respect serving the community quite the way people had hoped.”
Halley said he’s aiming to run a store that is an asset to the neighborhood, offering more personalized service than a larger chain, and a good environment for people to interact.
“It’s desirable for a neighborhood to have a healthy store,” he said, “It provides an anchor for the neighborhood.”
While Halley said his customer base is diverse, many University students who live in the area come to the store to purchase small items such as snacks while waiting for the bus that takes them to campus.
Public relations senior Carly Syfko lives near the store and stopped in Monday morning to grab a bottle of water before heading to school.
“I just go in to the store to get what I need,” she said.
Syfko said it’s “pretty cool” that the market is owned by a University professor.
Though Halley said owning the market and being a professor has kept him extremely busy, those working with him said his endeavor has not caused him to sacrifice University responsibilities.
Graduate student Jun Chung, who is taking Halley’s advanced statistical mechanics class, said he puts his students first.
“I wouldn’t have known that he owned the market,” Chung said.
In the immediate future, Halley’s taking an appropriately scientific approach to deciding which products the store should supply.
“We’re doing polling in the area to determine what customers want,” he said.
Halley said he’s also pondering renting out spaces in the basement for area residents who may need extra storage space.
One thing that is not likely to change is Halley’s busy schedule, particularly since he’s in the process of publishing a book.
Asked whether he would sell the book at his new store, Halley laughed.
“I can’t link my worlds quite to that extent,” he said.