When I entered through the door of FLAT 128, I was greeted with displays of quirky necklaces, jars of marmite, and pillows printed with the image of the British flag. As the name of the boutique implied, I almost felt like I was in a friend’s flat, except for one important difference – everything in FLAT 128 can be purchased with Bitcoin. I met with founder Elizabeth DuBois to discuss how the store came to be and how the city’s first Bitcoin ATM ended up there!
Emily Braun: Tell me a little bit about your store.
Elizabeth DuBois: I opened FLAT 128 a little over a year and a half ago. I had lived in London for five years, and I had met a lot of designers. My background is in art history, so I wanted to open up my own store. I thought it would be really exciting to bring British designers here to New York, designers who aren’t in any other US store. So the majority of the collection can’t be found anywhere else in this country.
Braun: Do you pick out all of the designers yourself? And what aesthetic do you usually go for?
DuBois: Yeah, I do all of the buying; I basically do everything. I try to find pieces that you just normally wouldn’t find in any other jewelry store or boutique. Things that stand out. And I try to make sure I’m buying things for every kind of woman.
Braun: What do you think the biggest difference is between British designers and New York designers?
DuBois: In England, there’s such a sense of craftsmanship. They’ve been around much longer than us, and they have a whole jewelry district where everything is still handmade and handcrafted. In some ways, they just have a more adventurous sense of style. You look at the big fashion designers that have come out there, and they all are a little more daring. And you see it in London street style, as well; they’re not as put together as New Yorkers.
Braun: So I found you through Coin Map, and I would love to know how you got involved with Bitcoin!
DuBois: A friend of mine introduced me to Bitcoin last summer. He’s a huge Bitcoin enthusiast. He actually bought the BTM, which is how it would up in my store.
Braun: And when he told you about Bitcoin, what was your first impression?
DuBois: I was just very confused at first. I had only vaguely heard of it before he told me about it. It seemed like a very interesting and exciting thing, so I wanted to learn more about it. I read a lot of articles on it, and I get news alerts every day. There’s always something happening with Bitcoin.
Braun: Absolutely! And what do you think the single most exciting aspect of Bitcoin is?
DuBois: For me personally, I was excited to have the first BTM in the city. And I love seeing how it’s going to evolve, if it’s really going to take over. Just in the last few months, Microsoft & Expedia are accepting it, so I wonder what other businesses are going to jump on. And I wonder if the masses will actually gain trust in it.
Braun: Have you bought anything with Bitcoin?
DuBois: I’ve only ever used it in my store, just to test it out. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed another physical place in the city accepting Bitcoin.
Braun: When you had your BTM up, did you have a lot of people come into the store to use it?
DuBois: Yeah, we had a ton of people. It was really popular. A lot of people came in specifically for Bitcoin, but I was able to convert some people to customers.
Braun: And you accept Bitcoin in your store?
DuBois: I do, but I don’t think my clientele really know much about it. The majority of people who came into my store to shop, not for the BTM, had no idea what it was. So I was teaching a lot of people about what Bitcoin was and how we accept it and so on.
Braun: So how did you describe it to those people? What would you say Bitcoin is?
DuBois: I always started by saying that it’s a digital currency. There’s the whole blockchain ledger, which accounts for every transaction. Some people would ask me why they should buy bitcoins, and most people had heard of it in regards to the Silk Road. So Bitcoin had a negative connotation in the minds of those people. I would tell them that a lot of people are on board and really excited about it, especially because it’s not run by the banks. And I would mention that a lot of people invest in it as well, as you would with a stock.
Braun: Do you personally have bitcoins that you’re investing?
DuBois: Maybe $10 of bitcoins. So yeah, not much.
Braun: You mentioned that a lot of your customers don’t know very much about Bitcoin. What do you think needs to happen for Bitcoin to become more mainstream, to the point where everyone has heard of it?
DuBois: I just think that general awareness has to be brought about. I mean, all of the papers have written about it, but it’s always in the business or financial sections, which not everyone reads. It needs to be in a more wide-reaching publication, something different that Business Weekly or the finance section. And more businesses need to get on board.
Braun: Do you personally have hope for Bitcoin?
DuBois: I do! I’m actually very excited to see where it goes. I think that Bitcoin has huge potential. I just think that people now have such a stigma against it, because they only know about the Silk Road. So it’s important to get that stereotype away from Bitcoin. I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge for Bitcoin. I always explain all of the benefits of Bitcoin to people, like how there are no international transfer fees, it’s instant, and it’s so easy. I feel like Bitcoin is going to replace Western Union. Western Union seems so out of date, and it’s just a pain for everyone involved. Bitcoin solves those problems so easily.
– Emily Braun