Solana-Themed Storefronts Close Shop, Ending Experiment in IRL Blockchain Evangelism

Solana Spaces will close its New York City and Miami locations by the end of February.

AccessTimeIconFeb 22, 2023 at 3:15 a.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2023 at 4:08 a.m. UTC

Solana Spaces, a company that used storefronts in New York City and Miami to pitch adoption of its namesake blockchain, said in a tweet Tuesday it will close its locations by the end of the month.

The startup reached “an inflection point” in the past two months and will pivot away from brick-and-mortar experiences and into non-fungible tokens (NFT), CEO Vibhu Norby said in the tweet. He indicated Solana Spaces will rebrand itself as DRiP, a boutique NFT distribution platform created by Norby, which he also promoted in his stores.

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  • The closure comes seven months after Norby opened Solana Spaces’ first location in a glitzy mall in New York City’s Hudson Yards. Its staffers guided visitors through interactive stations that taught them how to get going on Solana, from setting up a crypto wallet to swapping tokens on a decentralized exchange. Norby later set up a second shop in Miami.

    Some 60,000 total visitors came to the stores over six months and they completed 16,000 onboarding tutorials, according to a spokesperson for the Solana Foundation, which gave Norby a grant to help Solana Spaces launch. The spokesperson said the Foundation had no financial stake in the company.

    Rather than selling a product, Solana Spaces pitched its storefront as an interactive billboard for crypto brands like FTX, Phantom and Orca that paid for exposure to mainstream audiences. Their advertising dollars paid for Solana Spaces operations; when the FTX exchange imploded it shook the company, but Norby insisted Solana Spaces could still sustain itself using his so-called “retail-as-a-service” (RaaS) model.

    Just over a year ago, Norby’s first attempt at RaaS, the tech gadget-focused store b8ta, closed its doors after failing to reach a deal with its landlords. Solana Spaces’ New York location inhabited a former b8ta storefront.

    Norby said he closed Solana Spaces’ brick-and-mortar operations because the behind-the-scenes administrative operations proved too burdensome and the potential for growth was too small.

    “It’s a little less about the economics and more about where I thought this was going in the future,” Norby said.

    The company will continue building DRiP, the NFT distribution platform Norby said attracted tens of thousands of signups during Solana Spaces’ in-person run.


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    Danny Nelson

    Danny is CoinDesk's Managing Editor for Data & Tokens. He owns BTC, ETH and SOL.