The Solana Embassy in Miami’s Wynwood.
Yesterday, a new retail experience launched in the heart of Miami’s Wynwood district. Surrounded by digital brands like Warby Parker and Marine Layer, boutique coffee shops, and some of the city’s best restaurants and nightclubs sits a 4,500-square-foot space called The Solana Embassy. It aims to attract similar customers to its neighbors, with Supreme-like exclusive merchandise drops, a cozy FTX co-working lounge, a Degen Ape Café NFT coffee shop, and a sound and light system that converts the space into a trendy Miami nightclub. However, its primary purpose is to lure the crypto inquirer, the Web3 enthusiast, and the purely inquisitive passerby. In essence, it unites the mysterious world of crypto with the familiar realm of physical retail.
The Solana Embassy is the second location to open by a company called Solana Spaces, which, counter to the belief of many, has no direct association with the cryptocurrency Solana. It was founded earlier this year by Vibhu Norby in collaboration with The Solana Foundation, which funded and incubated the store. Norby is an entrepreneur known for co-founding B8ta, one of the first retail-as-a-service stores that charged a monthly fee to brands to showcase products in its store and receive data. Before the pandemic, B8ta had about 20 stores in the US, several abroad, and extensive funding from prominent investors like Macy’s. However, because of the pandemic’s effects on business, the company closed its doors earlier this year. Although Solana Spaces is new, it’s a concept Norby has been thinking about for some time and plans to expand domestically and internationally.
Interior of The Solana Embassy in Miami’s Wynwood.
The Solana Spaces locations act like B8ta in educating potential consumers and users on what is unknown to those not active in the crypto community. It has a similar purpose to the stores of most digitally native brands. For example, a study from 2019 called Customer Supercharging in Experience-Centric Channels found that these retail spaces “supercharge” customers, increasing spending per order by up to 60% and increasing the frequency of purchases. In another study looking at Warby Parker, the same professors found that about 80% of store visitors were new, and opening a store increased sales in the market by 7.4%. Although these examples refer to digital brands, they’re indicative of the power of the experiential concept.
Phantom wallet setup booth in The Solana Embassy
The variable that can alter this effect is the experience quality, which Norby and his team have thought through extensively. “Stores have to be interesting, fun, and engaging,” he said, adding, “The core idea behind crypto is what if the thing we use, we also own? That idea has some powerful notions for retail. In addition to being fun, there’s a huge component of loyalty and community.” While the company’s NYC store focuses on educating, the Solana Embassy is wholly unique, also acting as a physical gathering space for the existing community.
The idea of crypto in the physical world may seem like an oxymoron, but the reality is it’s here. And there are many ways in which it’s tangible. For example, the Solana Embassy experience involves getting set up with a Phantom wallet (if a visitor doesn’t already have one) and going around the store to interact with different Solana blockchain players. In addition, visitors can collect NFT badges at each station for completing tutorials and exchange them for money—acting as both a game and an incentivized learning method. There’s also an NFT gallery that includes physical products available for purchase.
News about big companies like Nike and Gucci entering the metaverse and creating NFTs has become ubiquitous. Still, little is being said about digital-first designers in the crypto space starting to make a mark with a lot to offer in the physical realm. As Norby said, “there are going to be a lot of NFT native communities breaking into the mainstream. You could argue Bored Ape did that, but there’s a lot more to come on that front, and many of them will end up being fashion brands and other types of viral experiences. We want to build a playbook for that to happen.”
A merchandise display in The Solana Embassy in Miami’s Wynwood
As Norby mentions, The Bored Ape Yacht Club has initiated some physical events for its community members, including various meetups and an event called “Ape Fest,” featuring famed musicians and comedians. However, it’s a highly exclusive, mainly wealthy, club, and there’s an opportunity for a more accessible and welcoming physical space—an opportunity Solana Spaces has grasped.
The company’s two locations in New York and Miami are just the beginning. There will be more spaces and exciting developments announced later in the year. But, for now, crypto enthusiasts or skeptics, these spaces are likely the inception of crypto-based retail.
The Solana Embassy in Miami’s Wynwood.