Crypto project Solana is opening a store in NYC. Take a look inside

July 27, 2022, 11:34 PM UTC
Solana Spaces, the first permanent retail store funded by the Solana Foundation.
Solana Spaces

In the expansive world of Web3, there isn’t much use for anything IRL, right? Wrong. Just ask the team behind Solana, which is opening a permanent physical retail space dedicated to all things tied to its cryptocurrency.

Located at The Shops, a fancier-than-average mall at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, the store opens to the public on Thursday, but I was able to get a tour a day early.

If you’re not familiar, Solana touts itself as a faster alternative to the Ethereum blockchain, while likewise offering smart contracts that power NFTs and various decentralized applications. In the last year, Solana’s currency SOL rose to be among the top 10 by market value.

As for the store—which might seem like a far-fetched idea—I honestly found it to be a pretty cool spot (and let me be clear upfront, I don’t own any SOL!)

It feels like any other upscale retail store, but it accepts cryptocurrency—with “Solana Pay Accepted Here” casually posted on the storefront glass—and has an NFT gallery highlighting the Degenerate Ape Academy collection across its walls.  

Degenerate Ape Academy NFT gallery at the Solana Spaces store in New York.
Solana Spaces

Upon entering, I immediately noticed an interactive installation visualizing what’s happening on the Solana blockchain in real time, including transactions done and NFTs minted. 

Across the store, there are various stations aimed at onboarding people to the crypto space, including a private booth for people to set up a Phantom wallet (the most popular Solana wallet) and write down their seed phrase (a secret chain of words that acts as a pin) on a tiny card for safe keeping. 

Other stations gave tutorials on platforms like STEPN, a play-to-earn app, and Magic Eden, an NFT marketplace. There, people can also check out Solana Saga, Solana’s Web3 mobile phone (yes, you read that correctly).

The Phantom wallet station at the Solana Spaces store in New York.
Solana Spaces

Of course, there was branded merch everywhere in the store, with shirts, sweats and hats galore, labeled with phrases commonly used in the crypto community like the rallying cry “WAGMI,” as well as “degen,” “not financial advice,” and “probably nothing.” It’s every crypto bro’s dream.

Though there’s a lot happening inside, the Solana team’s main goal is to onboard onlookers and educate anyone new to the crypto space, Vibhu Norby, the Solana Spaces CEO, told me while showing me around. Ultimately, he said, the store is “an experiment that we think a lot of people will love.”

Solana Spaces

But it’s not just any kind of experiment: It’s a very expensive one. Rent is no joke in Manhattan—and retail space in Hudson Yards is likely very costly. Only time will tell as to whether this will be a good long-term investment for the Solana Foundation, a non-profit that works to build the broader Solana ecosystem and paid for the store.

That said, the short-term pay-off for Solana feels like a good one. People passing by in the mall during my tour were already trying to get into the store—some of which didn’t even know what Solana is and wanted to enter just because they thought the NFT monkeys were cool. 

All in all, it’s worth checking out if you’re in town. 

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