In what is a first for the crypto world, blockchain pioneer Solana (SOL 1.36%) has launched a real-world physical store in New York City. While the store just opened to the public, images are already circulating across social media, and Solana has made no secret of the fact that the new Solana Spaces store will look and function much like an Apple Store.
For anyone who has tracked the rise of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) over the past two decades, this move into real-world retail is clearly huge news for Solana. After all, it was arguably the launch of the Apple Store retail concept back in 2001 that brought Apple forever into the consumer mainstream and helped it become one of the most valuable brands in the world. What Steve Jobs realized back then was that consumers needed a real-world way to learn about and experience all the amazing things they could create with Apple products. So just imagine if Solana is able to capture just a small fraction of Apple's retail magic in the future.
The blockchain IRL
The real genius of Solana's move, of course, is that it will help everyday people understand what the blockchain is in real life (IRL). For example, Solana Spaces staff will help you set up your crypto wallet and help you buy your first non-fungible tokens (NFTs). At the same time, you will be able to check out the upcoming Solana mobile phone (the world's first "crypto phone") and buy Solana-related merchandise.
In addition, there will be interactive art installations, and plenty of ways to learn more about Solana and its plans for the future of Web3, which can best be thought of as what comes next after the internet. According to crypto enthusiasts, of course, Web3 refers to a decentralized online ecosystem built on the blockchain. So is it any surprise that Solana is calling the store a "Web3 embassy"? All of this will help to make the blockchain something people can see, experience, and touch. Steve Jobs would be impressed.
The blockchain as brand
Most people, when they think about blockchain, may have a hard time explaining what it is. If anything, they think about blockchain the same way they think about the internet -- as something that just is. They may not realize that there are different options for building on the blockchain. There is Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH), of course, but there is also Solana and Avalanche (CRYPTO: AVAX). So this retail store concept could be one way for the Solana brand to take off. This is not as far-fetched as it might seem, considering that you will now be able to buy Solana-branded sneakers from celebrity athletes and designers at the store.
Of course, there is the chance that all of this could just end up being a hugely expensive PR and publicity stunt for Solana. How many artists, designers, and celebrity athletes are really going to be hanging out at the store? And just how many people are really going to buy Solana merchandise? After all, when Steve Jobs first launched the Apple Store retail concept, there were plenty of critics who complained that Apple was going to cannibalize existing sales channels and be stuck with a lot of expensive retail store locations that wouldn't sell enough to be cost-effective.
Keep in mind, too, that the site of the new Solana retail store -- inside the Hudson Yards complex in midtown Manhattan -- is somewhat problematic. Hudson Yards opened to much fanfare just a few years ago and then went eerily silent during the COVID pandemic. What was supposed to be NYC's greatest real estate development project in decades has been mired in problems since its opening. Could this be a metaphor for all things blockchain and crypto?
The Web3 future
The good news is that, during a crypto downturn, "builders build." And, right now, they are building the Web3 future. If Solana has any say in the matter, it will be Solana leading the way. The best NFTs will come from Solana. The best metaverse experiences will come from Solana. The best mobile phone crypto experiences will come from Solana. You get the idea: There are plenty of ways that Solana could use its new Web3 embassy to attract users, developers, and investors. All the "cool kids" will be using Solana, and everyone else will be stuck with Ethereum.
If that turns out to be true, then there is a strong case for buying Solana now. Its current market capitalization may be just a fraction of what it could be in the near-term future if it truly becomes the Apple of the crypto world.