New Bank Dispenses Local Currency | Business | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

New Bank Dispenses Local Currency 

Local Matters

BURLINGTON -- The Burlington Bread Bank, a tiny office in the Wing Building at 1 Steele Street, doesn't look like a financial institution. Not a reputable one, anyway. The cramped space beside the bike path houses a desk, a microwave, a rusty, teal-colored mini fridge, and a few dilapidated benches and chairs that have seen better days.

But don't let its humble appearance fool you -- this outpost is on the cutting edge of a national movement to bolster local economies. From 2:30 to 6:30 on Thursday afternoons, beginning May 11, the site will offer visitors a chance to trade in their U.S. dollars for Burlington Bread, the Queen City's very own currency. One dollar is the equivalent of one "slice."

The colorful slices, printed on leathery paper made from recycled blue jeans, are circulated by the Burlington Currency Project. BCP organizer Amy Kirschner, an AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer, notes that spending Bread at one of the 60 or so Vermont businesses that accept it is the ultimate way to buy local. That's because all the money will recirculate here, rather than out of state. "It's an action, as opposed to a slogan," she says.

Other parts of the country have their own currencies -- New York's Ithaca Hours may be the most famous example. Others include Bay Bucks in Traverse City, Michigan, and the BerkShares of Massachusetts. Bread has been around since 1998, though this is the first time the Currency Project has opened a public storefront to dispense it. Kirschner estimates roughly $20,000 to $30,000 worth of slices are already in circulation.

Kirschner will be the banker, though she hardly looks the part. One recent May afternoon, the University of Vermont Natural Resources graduate student opens the bank door wearing a Magic Hat T-shirt, a black skirt and flip-flops. She says she hopes the space will entice people to drop by to chat and learn more about local currencies.

The office won't actually be a bank, per se -- you can't sign up for an account yet, or apply for a loan. You can't even get your money back after exchanging it for Bread. Once you've banked your cash, it'll be deposited in an account at Opportunities Credit Union, and the Currency Project will use it to pay the rent on the office and buy supplies. "You can't buy U.S. stamps with Bread," Kirschner notes dryly.

You can, however, spend Bread for 20 percent of your tab at American Flatbread, or for 25 percent of your purchase of take-out at SugarSnap. You can also pay with Bread for half of any purchase at Gardener's Supply Company, in Burlington's Intervale.

And Bread doesn't just work in Burlington -- a handful of businesses outside the city accept it, too, such as The Book Rack and Children's Pages in Essex. Owner Elaine Sopchak competes with big booksellers like Borders and Barnes & Noble, and she knows the appeal of shopping local. Bread, Sopchak says, is "a fabulous concept. I really like being a part of it."

But she adds that it can be difficult for business owners to spend. "I have a big wad of Burlington Bread in my safe," she explains. "There's really nothing my business needs that I can buy with Bread."

Kirschner hopes that will change. She says more outreach and advertising is on her to-do list. She's been focused recently on "capacity building" -- getting the bank set up, putting volunteer management systems in place, recruiting people for the board of directors. There are now 15 people on the BCP board, including developer Melinda Moulton, City Councilor Carmen George and Gardener's Supply founder Will Raap.

Kirschner is also working on a daylong conference at Champlain College on June 8 called "Complementary Currencies: Money for Local Living Economies." Bernard Lietaer, an author and academic who helped develop the euro, will be the keynote speaker. Ithaca Hours creator Paul Glover and BerkShares founder Susan Witt will also attend. Registration is $45 -- and yes, you can pay with Bread.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Cathy Resmer

Cathy Resmer

Bio:
Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer is an organizer of the Vermont Tech Jam. She also oversees Seven Days' parenting publication, Kids VT, and created the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics initiative. Resmer began her career at Seven Days as a freelance writer in 2001. Hired as a staff writer in 2005, she became... more

Comments


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Latest in Business

  • Pandemic Pick: Which Local Shop Perfected Contact-Free Shopping?
  • Pandemic Pick: Which Local Shop Perfected Contact-Free Shopping?

    Though most nonessential retailers shut down only after the governor's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order in March 2020, Common Deer was ahead of the curve. As co-owner Sarah Beal explained, her shop was among the first to close before the mandate. "It was really clear to us that this was going to be a lot longer than everyone assumed," she said, "so we hunkered down and made big decisions for how we wanted the [coming] months to go."
    • Jun 9, 2021
  • Pandemic Pick: Which Vermont Business Pivoted the Most to Serve a Greater Good?
  • Pandemic Pick: Which Vermont Business Pivoted the Most to Serve a Greater Good?

    The last thing Beth Hammond wanted to do was close the doors of the Heineberg Community Senior Center. As COVID-19 spread, she knew seniors would be isolated at home, some without access to meals and some with depression, said Hammond, executive director of the Burlington nonprofit.
    • Jun 9, 2021
  • BCA Needed a Home; Mascoma Provided the Key
  • BCA Needed a Home; Mascoma Provided the Key

    Making art accessible to all has been the mission of Burlington City Arts since it was founded in the 1980s. In 2018, BCA got the opportunity to purchase its classroom and studio facility on Pine Street. Mascoma Bank and Mascoma Community Development helped secure financing. Says BCA Executive Director Doreen Kraft, “They were just superheroes.” (Paid Post)
    • Jun 3, 2021
  • More »

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative
newsletters:

All content © 2021 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401
Advertising Policy  |  Contact Us
Website powered by Foundation