If you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new shop in downtown Portsmouth that promotes the use of cryptocurrency. Shoppers in the high-traffic tourist area notice the political shirts and cool wares at Free State Bitcoin Shoppe, only to discover that they can’t pay for anything with cash.
The shop’s founders, Derrick J. Freeman and Steven Zeiler, have a unique mission. Instead of aiming to make money, they aim to "change the money that people use." Freeman says: “If customers come in, set up a free wallet on their phone, and leave, I'm happy that they took a step toward greater financial freedom. Success is people using cryptocurrency at stores other than our shoppe.”
Of course, people do purchase the store’s gifts, books and liberty-themed goods, and owners of neighboring businesses are even asking how they can trade with cryptocurrency. Freeman and Zeiler say that they can’t imagine the shop doing this well in any other state. Freeman explains: “New Hampshire is now the most cryptocurrency-friendly state, thanks to the Cryptocurrency Protection Act, a bill signed into law this year that explicitly protects bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from regulation.”
Read more in our Q&A with Freeman:
The shop has been open for more than a month now...how is business?
Business is way better than expected. I expected that about 10% of people would know about bitcoin, and maybe 1% would have some. In fact, it’s more like 90% of people know about bitcoin, and about 10% have some! About half of our customers have sought us out, and half are tourists and locals who wander in off the street.
What was the official Grand Opening like a couple weeks ago?
Tons of people came through the store that day. We didn't announce it anywhere, but Free Talk Live caught wind of it and arranged to record a live radio broadcast inside the store during opening hours. We have a small space, and it was packed with people. There was hardly any room to walk the whole day. Some people were shopping, and others were listening to the radio show.
Afterwards, we all went over to the Seacoast Repertory Theatre across the street to watch a screening of my movie, "Victimless Crime Spree." The movie was free, and attendees could pay for drinks in bitcoin and dash, because the theater accepts both digital currencies for tickets and concessions.
What do you see your shop offering to members of the liberty community who are already educated about crypto?
Even the most crypto-savvy members of the liberty community will benefit from a visit to the Shoppe. First, they can turn their digital money into real goods, such as grocery store gift cards and hardware wallets. Second, they can expand their ideological influence by networking with locals who share common interests at our regular bitcoin meetups. Those gatherings take place at a different Portsmouth restaurant every eight days, so that anyone can attend, no matter their schedule. Third, they can grow their wealth and knowledge of cryptocurrency and privacy enhancing tools by conversing with fellow customers, many of whom are the most advanced cryptonauts in the Shire.
How did you come up with this idea? How long has it been brewing?
Like most people who use cryptocurrency, Steven and I have long dreamt of a physical retail shop that accepts cryptocurrency exclusively. So, in a sense, this idea has been brewing for almost a decade. After years of waiting, we decided that if no one was going to do it, then it would have to be us. After deciding to open a crypto-only shop, the implementation was almost immediate. We leased a space downtown and filled it with libertarian-themed political art and freedom-enhancing tools within about a month.
Have you encountered any resistance from shoppers when they discover you only accept crypto?
Some potential customers passing by want to buy one of our funny political t-shirts, but they don't want it enough to learn something new. That's okay. We make it easy for those who are more adventurous to use crypto on the spot. In under five minutes, we help them download a digital wallet on their phone, turn their cash into crypto, and take payment. Everyone leaves feeling good. Most people have long been waiting to try bitcoin, but they've never had someone hold their hand while they do it. Those who don't want to either don't have the time or the interest. That's to be expected. Not everyone wants bitcoin. Some people are perfectly happy with a money that funds wars and loses purchasing power every year.
There are a lot of people out there who appreciate what you’re doing. In addition to visiting the shop, how can they support you?
People can do a lot to support the Shoppe without visiting the physical location. First, they can sign up for our email list, which helps us connect with people who share our mission. Second, they can like and follow us on social media and share our posts with their friends to show that the crypto economy is exploding here in New Hampshire. Finally, the highest value thing they can do to support us is to create content -- a video or blog post -- telling people about the store and why it matters to them. Yes, we're educating people about cryptocurrency, but more importantly, we're creating positive human connection.