WHO: Owners, Steven Zeiler & Derrick J. Freeman
WHAT: America’s First and Only Crypto-only Brick and Mortar Retail Store
WHEN: Founded June 2017, open 7 days a week
WHERE: 56 State St, Portsmouth, NH (aka “Bitcoin Village”)
WHY: The owners always dreamed of a store that only took bitcoin. So when they saw a space available for rent in the heart of a small tourist town, they jumped on the opportunity to make their dream a reality.
HOW: Visitors pay for merchandise with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dash. If they don’t have cryptocurrency, the store clerk helps them download and fund their first wallet. They checkout using an iPad in a Square stand running NH-based free point-of-sale software called Anypay.
- How did you come across cryptocurrency?
As soon as I learned how the Federal Reserve works — through inflation and secrecy — I instantly sought an alternative. For years I used silver to trade. Then I received some bitcoin as a tip for doing a radio show (Free Talk Live). I had heard of people trying things like the Liberty Dollar and E-Gold, so I was familiar with the concept. I read Satoshi’s white paper about electronic peer-to-peer cash and was interested in using it. I spent the bitcoins I received immediately on things like sending bitcoin to my friend in exchange for his jacket. I asked people to pay me in bitcoin for things like giving haircuts.
I loved this new kind of money. I loved that it was a digital balance on my screen. I liked that I had a record of all the transactions in the network. I liked that it ran like a bittorrent on my computer — always updating the ledger with all the other nodes on the network. I liked that I could participate in mining by buying some equipment and configuring it to join the network of miners. I liked that this new kind of money was being circulated among my friends. I liked that it afforded me the opportunity to use a money that wasn’t created and controlled by the Federal Reserve. I like that it empowers people like me to opt for a more peaceful world by withdrawing support for empire-building and endless wars. I like that it gives my parents a way to save for retirement without inflation sucking away the value of their hard-earned savings.
I became an evangelist early on for all of these reasons, and they motivate me every day: more justice, more freedom, and more prosperity.
- What is the connection between bitcoin/crypto and The Free State Project?
A large portion of the people who moved to New Hampshire in search of freedom are bitcoin users. That’s because they know about the Federal Reserve. Once you know about that, and you know there’s an alternative, it’s pretty hard to reconcile your personal responsibility for its perpetuation. You are literally empowering them every time you accept their notes in exchange for your labor or property. You’re saying, “These have value to me.” So long as you are doing that, you are personally perpetuating the Federal Reserve’s influence on reality.
People who want “Liberty In Our Lifetime” are going to do everything reasonable within their power to achieve it. Using bitcoin and other currencies competing on a free and open market is a no-brainer if liberty is your guiding value. Cryptocurrencies affords us the opportunity to not just withdraw our support for values we detest, but to actively support coins whose communities actively embrace certain values we share. It’s amazing, and anyone not yet benefiting from participation in these communities is missing out.
- What was the inspiration behind The Bitcoin Shoppe?
Like you (probably), Steven and I always dreamed of the day we could walk into a store and pay with bitcoin. Only it was taking forever for that to happen. We went to Prague and were inspired by Parallelni Polis, a bitcoin-only coffee shop on the ground floor of the Cryptoanarchy Institute. When we saw a space available for rent in the heart of our small tourist town, we jumped on the opportunity to make our dream a reality in America. We filled it with all the bitcoin merch we had — it was a tiny room with a single table and some pins and propaganda strewn about.
- Tell us about TBS. What do you sell?
The number one thing we sell is the “Bitcoin 101” class at the Blockchain Institute where people learn how to get a bitcoin wallet, how to send and receive bitcoin, and how to backup their money safely.
We also sell bitcoin watches, bitcoin mugs, bitcoin pint glasses, hardware wallets, bitcoin t-shirts, bitcoin socks, bitcoin books, silver rounds, dvds, enigma machines, books about programming and economics, and “Live Free Or Die” artwork (the state motto of New Hampshire).
We are more about helping people get the information they’re seeking about bitcoin. They’ve all heard about it from the news, or a friend, coworker, or family member, and they’re curious. They want to know, “Is this thing real? Like, are people actually using it?” And we get the pleasure of pointing them to our huge map on the wall with flags sticking out at every one of 22 locations that currently accept bitcoin in this town of 22,000. We designed and printed pamphlets that we encourage people to take from a box on our front door. It explains how to get a wallet (of course we recommend Bitcoin.com wallet right at the top), and a map of the World Famous Bitcoin Tour of Portsmouth (http://WorldFamousBitcoinTour.com).
- How has the community received the store?
They love it. We’ve became fast friends with dozens of businesses who we’ve helped accept cryptocurrency. We’ve sponsored local theatre on multiple occasions as patrons of the arts. One of our neighboring shoppes and one of Portsmouth’s most beloved stores, Pickwick’s Mercantile, gave us the idea to coin Portsmouth as “Bitcoin Village”. We regularly host popular meetups where people come to level up their bitcoin knowledge and grow the network of bitcoin users and businesses. Even the local government has been warm and welcoming: a city councillor was one of our earliest customers, the police have politely checked in when they saw us moving store furniture at night, and just yesterday the parking enforcer popped into the Shoppe to let me know I’d forgotten to put my ticket on the dash. It’s that kind of quaint New England town. We love our neighbors and aim to make them proud.
- Do you think more brick and mortar, flesh and blood sites are needed to further crypto adoption?
Yes. I think about this every day. It’s 50% of my thoughts, probably. “How can I get X to accept bitcoin?” I’ve gotten pretty good at it. Steven is the best. It’s a skill, and one that takes developing. You have to find the decision-maker, make a human connection, introduce the concept, extol the benefits, give a demonstration, and hold hands while walking them through setting it up. There’s no marketing director of bitcoin who’s going to do it for you. If you’re a bitcoin user, and you want to expand the network, remember that it’s peer-to-peer, so the power is in your hands to make it happen. You know we need more brick and mortar, flesh and blood businesses taking crypto. So why hasn’t it happened already? Well, how many businesses have you helped set up?
That’s why Steven and I made Anypay, the world’s best crypto point-of-sale. It allows anyone, anywhere, to take cryptocurrency. Instant payments. No personal info required. Easy to operate. Works on any device. And totally free. Try it for yourself right now so you can recommend it to your favorite pastry shop, corner store, and hair salon. (https://pos.anypay.global)