BY JAN WONDRA
Think of it as the retail world we know in a battle against virtual e-commerce.
The comparison between the two shopping environments became a lively conversation for the December breakfast meeting of the South Metro Denver Chamber.
The virtual world is being created by “disruptors,” a reference to any person, company, product or service that upsets or changes the regular way of doing things. It is often used with another term, “early adapters,” meaning those who are the earliest people to try new things.
One new thing they are focused on is something called “cryptocurrency.”
You may not yet be familiar with cryptocurrency, but you soon will be. That is the generic term for worldwide virtual-payment mechanisms, such as Bitcoin, which claims to be the first “decentralized digital currency.” Cryptocurrency exists only on online as a monetary exchange for goods and services purchased via e-commerce. The system works without a central bank or single administrator. One version, called Wampum, is based in Centennial.
Bitcoin was introduced in January 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin stock prices have soared in an uneven nose-bleed-inducing climb with a few heart-pounding corrections.
The odd thing is when business reporters ask who owns Bitcoin and where the tiny transaction fee skimmed off every cryptocurrency transaction goes, the response is resounding silence.
“Well, the developers own it,” Wampum CEO Russell Castagnaro told the Dec. 8 chamber breakfast.
But who and where those developers are, how much they are making and where they store their profits remains something of a mystery. Castagnaro said that the reason people can be assured that Bitcoin is not a scam is because it is based on an open-source code.
The business people at the chamber gathering were interested in how someone would cash out of their BitCoin gains to buy a house, for example.
Castagnaro admitted that there are penalties for currency withdrawals or turning “Wampum” into regular currency and that those withdrawing funds might face capital-gains taxes.
“You could go to the seller of the house and tell them you want to pay in Bitcoin,” he said. “Or you could go to Salt Lending and get a loan to buy the house using your Bitcoin.”
“Returns are huge,” Castagnaro said of Wampum’s initial stock offerings, which he likened to crowd-funding. “The investments aren’t controlled by banks or venture capitalists, but by high net-worth individuals.”
For Wampum, investors include Denver-based Salt Lending.
“This is making money experientially,” Castagnaro said. “If you have to wait until there is a book on this, it is going to be too late.
When asked if the way that the cryptocurrency is being valued represents a market bubble, Castagnaro said, “The reason it’s hitting record highs is because of the controversy. Are we in a bubble? Yes, but the question is, are we at the beginning or end of the bubble?”
On the other hand, the more traditional commercial world we know is more predictable. It includes products you can pick up, food you can eat and services you receive in real time.
That world is alive and well at Lone Tree’s Park Meadows, which bills itself as Colorado’s only “retail resort.”
According to Senior General Manager Pam Schenck-Kelly, who has led Park Meadows since its inception 20 years ago, the planning and investment in Colorado’s premier mall was so strategic that it has stood the test of time.
Not only is it home to more unique shops and experiences than any other shopping center in the state, visitors can relax by the roaring fire in the food court, attend many seasonal events and enjoy Park Meadows’ extensive investment in décor and art. This includes the mall’s signature rotunda, featuring a visualization of “America the Beautiful,” written by Katherine Lee Bates about a trip to Colorado.
“We’re having a very good year,” Kelly told chamber members. “People consider Park Meadows as a destination, and retail shopping isn’t going to disappear. We’re up significantly for the year and this holiday season. We’ve added extra conveniences for diners and shoppers, including valet parking.”