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A Tacoma vintage shop takes its business into the metaverse

A man with glasses has his back to the camera wearing a black t-shirt. He has a laptop in front of him with a keyboard backlit. People are in the background of the photo with a large screen on the back wall of the room. It's a dark room with only a little light.
Richard Sjouwke
All-Star Vintage Metaverse will pop up at the Tacoma Courthouse Square for the next month. After that, they will pop-up at another location featuring other artists.

A Tacoma business owner is merging physical pop-ups and the metaverse to connect with customers.

Richard Sjouwke, one of the brains behind the popular Tacoma Sunday Market and Lincoln District Food Walk, co-owns All-Star Vintage. The vintage clothing store closed its storefront last year when the lease ended. But now Sjouwke is opening the doors of "All-Star Vintage Metaverse."

Scanning a QR code brings you to more than an online catalog. Instead, it leads to a virtual world where you can browse vintage clothes and discover musical and visual artists.

"I'm old enough to understand the internet through the years and I just knew that this was just a new form of the Internet," Sjouwke said.

Sjouwke said the metaverse may sound scary but it’s just a word. And he’s excited to introduce All-Star Vintage’s metaverse to in-person customers too.

Part of Sjouwke's business strategy is also opening a physical pop-up location at Court House Square in Tacoma. The hybrid model lets him reach a broader audience without the cost of a brick-and-mortar. Sjouwke said he hopes the physical space will help those who might be skeptical of the metaverse to experience it in a low-stakes way.

People who visit All-Star Vintage's pop-up will get to enter the metaverse with an avatar they can use to explore a virtual version of the store. Just like in real life, their avatar can move around and try different clothes, listen to music or view art on display.

The All-Star Vintage metaverse will also introduce visitors to Seattle music producer Keyboard Kid. He remembers when the internet was still relatively new and is excited by the opportunity the metaverse presents for artists like him to expand their audience.

"I think it's harder for us like that [have] been around to, like, really think like, why would I do that?" Keyboard Kid said. "Like what's the point for a lot of people? But it's just something else to have. It's like we all download digital music. What's the point of that? We don't even own the record anymore. We stream our movies, we stream our, our DVDs.”

Keyboard Kid likens this metaverse experience to the game Minecraft which allows users to build whatever world they'd like. For example, during the pandemic, UC Berkeley design students built a replica of the university on Minecraft and threw virtual concerts for students. Keyboard Kid was one of the artists who performed on virtual stages built across the model campus.

Photographer Dylan Maddux will have his work displayed both in the All-Star Vintage metaverse as well as at the opening night of the pop-up. Like Keyboard Kid and Sjouwke, he sees the benefit of putting his work in this new platform as a way to reach more people.

"Anyone, anywhere, can walk into this platform and view the work compared to a traditional opening," Maddux said. The experience isn't limited to those who can physically attend.

Maddux, Keyboard Kid, and Sjouwke understand that many people are hesitant to get on board with things like NFTs, crypto, and the metaverse. But for all of them, it's exciting and fun to be at the forefront of something that they think is going to play a bigger role in how we interact and find art in the future.

Explore All-Star Vintage's metaverse by going to The pop-up shop at Tacoma’s Court House Square will be open throughout the month of February.

Corrected: February 6, 2023 at 4:34 PM PST
Spelling of Dylan Maddux.
Grace Madigan covers arts and culture with a focus on how people express themselves and connect to their communities through art, music, media, food, and sport.