Hester Street Fair located in the heart of the Lower East Side is the largest pushcart market in New York City. Now in its fifth season, the market is dotted with 60 to 90 small businesses selling anything from artisanal food to vintage clothing to handmade arts and crafts.
Next weekend, like every other Sunday, the market will be up and buzzing, but with a twist in the tale.
Starting 15th June, more than 30 vendors at the Hester Street Fair will be trading their artisan goods for bitcoin every Sunday until the end of October. Over its four-month run, the 'NYC Bitcoin Fair' will showcase special bitcoin events, and opportunities for newbies to learn more about digital currencies.
The NYC Bitcoin Fair is the brainchild of Suhyun Pak, one of the co-organisers of the Hester Street Fair, who told CoinDesk the fair is a great place to incubate regular bitcoin activity:
"The fair is the perfect environment for the use of bitcoin. The small businesses that vend at Hester Street Fair are very entrepreneurial and flexible and willing to try new things out. They aren't burdened by having to go up a chain of command for permissions to try things. They are also excited to be at the forefront of this new technology."
Pak initially got introduced to bitcoin by Pat Che, who owns xCubicle, a tech and skill-share hackerspace located across the street from Hester. As an early adopter of bitcoin, Che also runs a meetup in New York and has been incubating the city's bitcoin community since 2012.
Together they decided to field test the idea of a NYC Bitcoin Fair at one of Hester Street Fair's December Christmas markets. The trial run wasn't a roaring success, will only about three vendors accepting bitcoin and the volume of transactions being low, to say the least. The initial transactions were also very clunky, as Pak admits. He said, "We were figuring it out as we went along."
"We were new to it. It was really in its early stage for us. We didn't have the support, the education, the workshops and that sort of thing."
However, they did have one big transaction to boast of: $450 for a photograph.
Six months later they are back, and for a much longer run. Pak and his co-organisers are confident and more prepared this time around, he said:
"I think Bitcoin has come leaps and bounds since then, especially with the adoption by so many larger and more reputable companies."
They have also partnered with payment processor BitPay to streamline the bitcoin acceptance process for the merchants.
Its Executive Chairman Tony Gallippi released the following statement regarding this partnership:
"We are so pleased with our new partnership with Hester Street Fair. It is another milestone for bitcoin. We are seeing it used in more brick and mortar outlets which is amazing to witness."
Tony Gallippi will be speaking at CoinSummit in London on 10th-11th July.
The hosts have organised an after party at Rosette Restaurant to wrap up the opening weekend of the fair. The cash and bitcoin-accepting bar is offering a 25% discount on drinks to those who pay with digital currencies.
Charlie Shrem, who has been indicted on charges relating to anonymous online marketplace Silk Road and recently had his 24-hour house arrest lifted, will also be at the fair and joining the after party.
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in BitPay.
Images courtesy of Hester Street Fair