Something very odd is coming to Hayes Valley, which at least a few investors think could be some futuristic retail concept that's more of a co-op community than a traditional store. And it sounds like something dreamed up in a crypto-funded cocaine brainstorm sesh, but who knows where retail is going anymore?
DeStore, which has actually had a presence at 348 Hayes Street — a former interior design boutique called Eurasian Interiors — since late last year, has recently put up signs announcing Store_0, "A Retail Store Run by a DAO." That would be a store run by a decentralized autonomous organization, via NFT investors. As Bloomberg reports, the 21-year-old co-founder and CEO Itsuki "Datz" Daito moved to San Francisco a few months before the pandemic began, and lives with other "founders" from Japan who are all "into Web3." Daito has gotten some seed funding for DeStore "Store_0," and the idea is that people who buy more of the NFTs underpinning the business will have greater power to vote on what gets sold, and how the business will work.
And all this voting, etc, will happen via Discord — the Slack-like app that has become a go-to space for NFT communities.
Daito makes the comparison to the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn — and other co-ops like it where members have to put in shifts to staff the place themselves, and get a say in the operations.
The manifesto for DeStore, on a sleek web page with a minimum of words, suggests that there are plans for "5000 stores all over the world" with some emphasis on "taste."
"The big, tasteless companies just keep adding stores to the world," Daito's manifesto says. "The unique ones are destroyed by centralized capital. COVID-19 accelerated it even further. The world gets boring. It’s 2022. Time to fix it."
Daito suggests that even in the current "crypto winter," there is still demand for the special off-line perks that some NFTs have been offering to their investor communities. "During the pandemic, online shopping is getting bigger, of course," Daito tells Bloomberg. "But offline shopping is getting bigger as well, if they provide offline-only value. Like a community experience; like a touch-and-feel experience."
The DeStore at 348 Hayes doesn't have much in it so far except a few framed illustrations of keys that look like your average NFT art. But once there's a community of owners, Daito expects the 700-square-foot space to become a sort of community hub as well as a store — but selling what, who knows?
DeStore is the first of its kind retail-NFT idea we've heard of in SF, but in June we learned about an NFT-backed restaurant that's heading to Salesforce Park — the luxury Japanese concept called SHŌ, from chef Sho Kamio. In the case of SHŌ, NFT buyers are being promised three tiers of off-line membership experiences once the restaurant is built, which it is not yet.
Questions swirl about how a DAO-backed store/club will actually function. Will anyone actually make any return on this? Will anyone show up to shifts they agree to? As one episode of Broad City famously lampooned, lots of 20-somethings move to Brooklyn and love the idea of joining the co-op, but showing up to work-shifts when the time comes? Kind of an inconvenience!