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Kaisertown resident’s Gridlock Lacquer puts polish on city

A Buffalo-based entrepreneur is bringing a colorful touch to Rust Belt cities.

Lisa Menchetti started her nail polish business Gridlock Lacquer after being inspired by polish collections based on larger cities.

“I remember seeing — I think it was like a ‘007’ movie collection — and was like ‘That’s a cool idea,’ and I saw one for New York City — it was like a ‘Big Apple’ collection — and just thought it was awesome,” Menchetti said. “I thought people in Buffalo would love something like that but geared towards our city, but because we’re a smaller market we get passed over for places like L.A., Chicago and N.Y.C.”

Menchetti looked into buying colors from a large manufacturer and custom-labeling them, but during her research, she learned she could mix her own nail polish. She bought a few starter kits and began to experiment, which resulted in her first collection of nail polishes, with nods to Buffalo in every name. A year and a half later, Menchetti has released lines for Niagara Falls, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and a Buffalo neighborhoods collection, as well as spring, summer and winter holiday collections for Buffalo.

Within the next few weeks her newest summer collection for Buffalo will be released. The four-polish line includes a mute red “Edward M. Cotter,” a mute gray “Grain Elevator,” and two neons, pink “For the Love of Larkin” and yellow “City of Light.”

“Many of the names are based from things that are unique to Buffalo or quintessential Buffalo places, names or history,” Menchetti said. “I try to keep the seasonal collections themed after the time of year, so with the summer collection, I’m concentrating on outdoor events — grain mills, fireboat, Larkin — and brighter summer colors.”

Menchetti will also be releasing another Rust Belt city collection by the end of the summer. This time, it’s Detroit. The Motor City holds a special place in Menchetti’s boyfriend’s heart.

“My boyfriend (Craig Spangler) loves Detroit. American-made cars are his thing,” she said.

One of the colors for the Detroit collection will be “My Heart Belongs to Detroit,” which is actually Menchetti and Spangler’s dog’s name. The couple adopted the dog from the Buffalo Animal Shelter, and before they brought him home, Spangler already knew they would name him Detroit, Menchetti said. Because of this connection, Menchetti will donate part of the proceeds from “My Heart Belongs to Detroit” to a local animal organization in Detroit.

“I’m hoping to get more of that kind of thing. I’m not sure what I’m going to do for Pittsburgh yet, but it’ll be that sort of thing,” Menchetti said. “I think it’s fun to pick something that you like and are passionate about and help others with it if you can. I think the preservation stuff in Buffalo is cool here. And it’s needed, especially with the amazing architecture.”

As a part of her effort to help preserve the historical architecture of Buffalo, Menchetti hosted a make-your-own nail polish event at the Iron Island Museum, 998 East Lovejoy St., on July 23. Part of those proceeds were donated to the museum for its renovation projects.

“It’s cool for me to promote my business, and it’s cool for them for some of the money to go towards some of their projects,” Menchetti said. “It’s just a fun unique event.”

She hosts similar events at Kaisertown Crafts and Gifts, 1899 Clinton St., and offers the same deal for parties. Each person in the class gets two bottles, and Menchetti teaches them the process to mix their own nail polish colors. The classes at Kaisertown Crafts and Gifts are postponed until the fall due to the plethora of activities in Buffalo during summertime. More information can be found on Gridlock Lacquer’s website:, where nail polishes sell for $7 a bottle. The website also lists stores selling Gridlock Lacquer.

Also beginning again in the fall will be Gridlock Lacquer’s presence at the Broadway Market, 999 Broadway. Every Saturday from October through Dyngus Day, with extra times during the holiday season, Menchetti sells her nail polish at the market. She does this, while creating and producing her holiday collection, packaging and sending orders for the holiday rush and still working her full-time job in supply chain management for a defense and aerospace company.

During these hectic times, her brother and sister-in-law, parents and boyfriend all pitch in to help things run smoothly.

“It’s a real family affair,” she said.

Although Menchetti said Spangler excels at packing nail polish (and hates styrofoam packing peanuts), she thinks the business will soon be too much to handle while maintaining her full-time job.

“It’s just a matter of time,” said Menchetti.

Most of the time, Gridlock Lacquer is a one-woman show, so with the success Menchetti has had, she’s looking to expand into a more permanent production area by winter. She owned a house in Parkside which she is closing on by the end of summer. The money from that sale will be used to purchase a storefront, ideally in Kaisertown, Menchetti said.

Menchetti, who runs a Facebook page dedicated to Kaisertown called “Kaisertown Buffalo,” said when she moved into the neighborhood with Spangler, neither of them knew much about it.

“I didn’t even know it existed six months to a year before we moved in,” Menchetti said.

But she’s come to love the neighborhood and, through her Facebook blog, wants to attract more attention to Kaisertown.

“The long-term goal is to put something here that’s going to improve the streetscape, attract attention to the area and maybe show people that there are other options outside of Hertel and Elmwood and Allen where people can go and have a nice house that’s affordable and in a walkable neighborhood and where there’s still a lot of possibilities,” Menchetti said.

Although Menchetti has looked in other areas for the right place for her storefront, she said since she promotes the neighborhood so much, she should contribute to it herself.

“At the end of the day I might as well put my money where my mouth is,” she said. “If I’m going to tell other people they should live in this neighborhood, that this is a cool place to set up your business, then I should do the same thing.”