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Bitcoins for chocolate
Manchester shop now accepts digital currency

07/30/15



Dancing Lion Chocolate in downtown Manchester recently announced that Bitcoin will now be accepted at its Elm Street location and online store. 

An “old techie” and former physicist, Richard Tango-Lowy, master chocolatier and owner of Dancing Lion Chocolate, heard about Bitcoin when it was first created but didn’t think of it as something he’d adopt for his shop. Pegging it as an “interesting concept,” he decided to wait and see how the currency would pan out.
It wasn’t until a couple of Bitcoin users stopped by Dancing Lion last year to ask if he would consider accepting the digital currency that it crossed his mind as a possibility. 
“I said no ...we’ve got a lot going on so come back to me and talk to me in a year,” Tango-Lowy said.
And that’s exactly what they did. The Bitcoin users returned, and this time Tango-Lowy said yes based on three conditions — it had to be easy to use, extremely safe and secure and cheap.
“They came in and [were] able to hit all of those pretty easy,” he said. 
Dancing Lion immediately launched a 30-day test run during the month of May to work out any glitches and make sure it was a good fit.
“That went just so well that by the third week in May we couldn’t think of any reason not to continue doing it,” he said. “It really was as easy and trivial and transparent as you would ask it to be.”
 
Taking on a new currency
For Tango-Lowy, the appeal of accepting Bitcoin wasn’t for the sake of novelty, but because of the possibilities it opens for his customer base.
“We do crazy things here, but we don’t do novelty, we do our own thing,” Tango-Lowy said. “We’ve got a lot of people with Bitcoins in their wallets, and there aren’t very many places for them to spend it so we give them a place and we give them something good for it. It’s a good exchange.”
The in-store exchange turned out to be very simple — all you need is a smartphone. Dancing Lion keeps an old smartphone at the register that only has two purposes: playing music and accepting Bitcoin transactions.
The way it works is if a customer comes in to buy a brownie for $3.50, for example, a staff member simply opens the Bitcoin app to request a payment for that amount and a QR code pops up. The customer opens his Bitcoin wallet, holds it up to scan the code and in about 10 seconds it’s done. 
“We’ll get an email from CoinBase, we print it out, throw it in the register [and] that’s the whole transaction,” Tango-Lowy said.
Dancing Lion uses Coinbase, a Bitcoin wallet and exchange where merchants and consumers can transact with the digital currency, according to coinbase.com. Whenever a Bitcoin transaction is made at Dancing Lion, the money goes to Coinbase and, based on the setup Tango-Lowy chose, is translated directly into dollars. 
 
Bitcoin in NH
Since Dancing Lion started accepting Bitcoin in May, a local group of Bitcoin users has made the shop a weekly gathering place to enjoy ice cream, brownies and drinking chocolate paid for with the digital currency. 
During a recent meeting, the group gathered around the register, chatting with Tango-Lowy and each other about the latest RFID chip alternative to the phone-based Bitcoin wallet, the Bitcoin ATM at Murphy’s Taproom, and what the day’s ice cream flavors were. 
“These aren’t people who would typically stumble into our kind of a chocolate shop,” Tango-Lowy said, noting that a large portion of his customers who use Bitcoin are Free Staters. “They’ve been great for us [and] they’ve been really good to us. And they come in over and over again. Some of them have become real regulars.”
Randy Clemens was among the group of Bitcoin users who visited Dancing Lion on a recent Friday afternoon. He moved to Manchester from Los Angeles three months ago and has been visiting with the group each Friday for the past three weeks. He was first introduced to Dancing Lion through the weekly meetup.
“I found them because they accept Bitcoin,” Clemens said. “I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot for food. I went to culinary school and I like food a lot, so I was really stoked to try their chocolates. They’re really fantastic.”
Customers like Clemens are an example of the new patrons who have been exposed to Dancing Lion simply because the shop has become part of the local Bitcoin user awareness.
“When communities can circle themselves around these kinds of technologies, it makes it much more secure and so as far as asking businesses to get involved, yeah, I think that is the very simple thing,” Clemens said. “And we’re lucky here within Manchester because within the Free State Project there’s a lot of people here that are very active in the Bitcoin community that are willing [and] know how to start those conversations.”
“I think it would be cool if Manchester were more of a hub of [Bitcoin], because we do have quite a few people and it really is easy to do,” Tango-Lowy said. 
Dancing Lion typically does about $100 a week in Bitcoin, he said, some from those who visit just because he does take Bitcoin. There are other businesses in the state that accept Bitcoin, including Murphy’s Taproom, but not many thus far. 
“There is a perceptual hump to get over. People don’t understand it and they’re less likely to deal with what they don’t understand,” Tango-Lowy said. “I think we have to get people over the fears and they have to see the benefits.” 
 
As seen in the July 30, 2015 issue of the hippo.





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