Calgary

Calgary reno company could be 1st in Canada to accept bitcoin, ether payments

A Calgary renovation company is set to be the first general contractor in Canada to allow customers to pay with cryptocurrency.

Volatile cryptocurrency market doesn't scare owner of Trademark Renovations

An employee from Trademark Renovations works on a home. The luxury renovations company will be accepting cryptocurrency payments from clients. (Trademark Renovations/Facebook)

A Calgary renovation company could be the first general contractor in Canada to allow customers to pay with cryptocurrency. 

"We are of the opinion that blockchain is the future," said Blair Foisy, the owner of Trademark Renovations, in an interview on Saturday.

The luxury renovations company will be accepting bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH) for customers who would rather pay with via blockchain than with the Canadian dollar.

Bitcoin and ether are cryptocurrencies, decentralized digital methods of payment. Instead of operating through a central bank, transactions are tracked through a public ledger called a blockchain. 

A bitcoin ATM sticker is posted to the window of a coffee shop in downtown Vancouver in 2013. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Foisy said that in his 30 years in business, he's always tried to stay ahead of the trends, and this is no different. He said that to his knowledge, Trademark will be the only Canadian general contractor to accept bitcoin and ether, which was created on the Ethereum system. 

Other companies like KFC Canada, NewEgg, Expedia and Shopify have also experimented with accepting cryptocurrencies.

"It's still very early in the game, but in conversations with customers it's kind of been the buzz ... a lot of them are investing in the cryptocurrency space now," Foisy said.

"Once mainstream adoption comes into play, there's going to be a lot more people looking for alternate payment methods. It's coming and we might as well open that door for anyone who perhaps was an early adopter or who's already in the cryptocurrency market and wants to spend some of their currency on a renovation."

There are a few dozen cryptocurrency ATMs in Calgary where prospective customers can exchange Canadian dollars for bitcoin, or it can be purchased in online exchanges. 

Once mainstream adoption comes into play there's going to be a lot more people looking for alternate payment methods.- Blair Foisy of Trademark Renovations

Foisy said the volatility of the blockchain market doesn't worry him, and that he'll base his decision on whether or not to convert payments into fiat — government-backed legal tender like the Canadian dollar — on how the market is trending.

"Yes, it's a volatile space, but if you look at its history it's not a straight line up — it's an ascending line, with dips and peaks along the way," he said. 

He also said there aren't really any additional tax challenges or implications for business owners.

The biggest difference is if a customer pays GST in cryptocurrency, he'll then have to pay it to the government in Canadian dollars — unless Ottawa chooses to start accepting crypto payments. 

Foisy hopes that the currency will eventually be able to eliminate some of the extra costs in his supply chain, like the cost of purchasing from U.S. suppliers when the Canadian dollar is doing poorly. 

"Once manufacturers are on the blockchain, you won't need all those middlemen along the way," he said. "Blockchain is peer-to-peer, so there's proof of payment immediately. It kind of eliminates that need for middlemen and all the markups that go along with it."

This bitcoin ATM in Nova Scotia, pictured next to a traditional automated banking machine. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Foisy said he doesn't yet have a sense as to how many customers will use the alternative form of payment — he doesn't expect it to be a daily occurrence — but said that if the experiment's a success, he'll look to expanding to other currencies, like ripple (XRP), in the future. 

"It's very early in the game, but we know it's coming. We thought we might as well be the first to put it out there, and shake things up a bit," he said. 

The company will begin accepting cryptocurrency payments for both renovations and custom home builds on March 1.

About the Author

Sarah Rieger

Reporter

Sarah Rieger joined CBC Calgary as an online journalist in 2017. You can reach her by email at sarah.rieger@cbc.ca.