Solana opens up IRL retail & educational space in NYC

In the world of web3, where most of the time users deal with ethereal concepts and assets, Solana bets on tangible experience and convenient on-site onboarding for newcomers.

A photo of the shop's interior.
Image: Scott Lewis on Twitter (@Scott_eth)

The Solana-themed shop opened its doors for visitors on Thursday, welcoming everyone regardless of their level of crypto knowledge. Being located in a busy mall at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, the store attracts different public, from devout Solana maxis to wandering shoppers who have no grasp of the crypto industry. And the latter are especially awaited, as the shop staff’s main goal is to onboard crypto-curious visitors, serving as their primary gateway to the industry.

“For those who are already in…can you remember how and when you not only learned about crypto but decided to dive into the rabbithole?” Solana Spaces asks followers on Twitter, recalling that for the store founders it started with a friend who showed how to set up a wallet and mint the first NFT.

“Not everyone has that person in their life. That’s where we come in. Spaces is everyone’s first crypto friend.”

Inside the store, crypto newbies can learn how Solana works and set their first steps in the web3 world. There’s a private booth for people who’d like to set up a Phantom wallet, where they can securely write down their seed phrase on a tiny paper card without fear of being peeped by a nosy visitor. Other onboarding stations provide guidance on how to navigate Magic Eden, Solana’s leading NFT marketplace, and STEPN, a play-to-earn crypto game. And of course, there’s a star attraction as well – Solana’s crypto-focused Saga smartphone.

But don’t mind the rookies, the shop has a lot to offer to crypto-savvy clients as well. Perhaps the most fascinating thing in the store is an interactive installation visualizing all operations on the Solana blockchain in real time, including NFTs minted and transactions sent. And for those who are into digital art, Solana Spaces would be a fine attraction to visit, as the shop scored the partnership with several NFT collections, including Degenerate Ape Academy.

The emphasis on the culture of “degens,” high-risk crypto traders aping on shady crypto projects, is particularly visible within the store. The brand merch contains many references to the niche crypto memes incomprehensible for “normies,” tempting tech bros to spend an entire paycheck on shirts, sweats, and hats labeled with “DYOR,” “WAGMI,” “degen,” and “Not financial advice.”

Solana, a high-performance L1 blockchain for smart contracts, has long billed itself as a faster and cheaper alternative to Ethereum, topping the list of potential “Ethereum killers.” Its native token, SOL, is currently the ninth largest cryptocurrency by market cap, but the network itself is still far from perfection, as it frequently experiences outages that have already become a meme within the crypto community.

However, Solana’s recent unconventional approach of driving adoption through tangible products like Saga smartphones and merch may result in the growth of its user base. If Solana Spaces project turns out to be successful, some crypto companies may follow the suit, establishing IRL community centers. Who knows, maybe in several years crypto shops in malls would be as ubiquitous and commonplace as Zara or McDonald’s.