Solid716 founder Jonathan Casey is spreading love around Buffalo, and he’s doing so using concrete. The Concrete Boutique located on Chandler Street, is a quaint little shop where you’ll find yourself climbing over a couple of guys mixing cement, only to stumble upon a vast array of garbage-picked objects. What appears to be garbage to the rest of us is Jonathan’s biggest inspiration. “I see objects and envision them in a completely different form.” The works of art that emerge from this shop, whether it’s a sea glass-embedded bar or a sculpture representing DNA, are pure beauty.
Jonathan was born and raised in Buffalo and after earning his BS in Business Management from the University at Buffalo, landed a job as the marketing coordinator for a company in Las Vegas. Although the job was solid (pun intended), the nine to five world wasn’t what suited the young artist for this matter-of-factly stated reason: “I’m not really a person who wants to be told what to do.” After moving around a bit, from Las Vegas to NYC, Jonathan returned to Buffalo and attended Buffalo State College, where he earned a BFA in Interior Design. While his passion for art is innate, going to school expanded his knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals that make up the design world.
Jonathan’s involvement with the renovation of The Steer Restaurant and Saloon is what sparked his interest in concrete. “I saw the concrete floors and wanted to make them look like leather.” Jonathan began to experiment with various ways to make concrete and learned that the process is far more complex than simply mixing together a couple of materials. In order to achieve a desired look, he spends a lot of time toying with different types of aggregate (sand and stone), bonding materials, resins, and added textures such as glass, stone, and glue.
Jonathan recently collaborated with interior designer Brooke Pelc to create Deep South Taco on Ellicott, the first of a proposed five restaurants, each with a design unique to its location. The artists helped enable Chef Richard Hamilton to turn his vision into a masterpiece. Cacti made from corrugated metal boxes illuminate the dining room, emphasizing the Mexican theme. The use of bold, vibrant colors throughout the restaurant has rendered Deep South Taco Casey’s favorite project to date.
Solid716’s mark is scattered throughout the city, from the tables at Canalside to the sinks in Lloyd Taco Factory on Hertel. Since concrete pieces cannot be mass produced, each work of art is designed specifically to fit its designated space. Some of these homes include Big Ditch Brewing Company on East Huron Street in Buffalo, O.P Social Tap & Grille in Orchard Park, and Dockside Bar & Grill in North Tonawanda. Jonathan has collaborated with other designers and architects to create some of Buffalo’s most popular destinations.
When Jonathan isn’t lining Buffalo’s waterfront with tables, benches, and planters, he’s working on a furniture line that is completely modular and 100% organic. Each piece is made of eco-friendly materials such as recycled rubber and Plyboo, and contains inserts for electronic devices, planters, etc. The furniture is more lightweight than you would think, and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
Despite being engrossed in projects from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed, Jonathan maintains an active role in the community for which Buffalo is so well known; the “City of Good Neighbors.” Yogis in Service, a non profit organization that provides free yoga classes to the community turned to Jonathan to design their yoga studio, located inside the Church of Resurrection on Doat Street. Jonathan happily rose to the occasion and revamped the walls, the floors, and the decor, taking it from what appeared to be an old, outdated classroom to a tranquil, modern space where people of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels are able to experience the benefits of yoga.
Jim House, Jonathan’s business partner, takes care of the operations side of Solid716 to ensure that deadlines are met and bills are paid because as Jonathan cheerfully admits “If it was my choice, I’d just be doing little art projects all day.”
When I asked Jonathan how he felt about being a major part of the city’s aesthetic rebirth, he proudly grinned and said “I’m finally at peace. I love what I do, I love everything that’s going on, and I love Buffalo.”
Lead image: Katie Ambrose