On a rainy Friday afternoon in early April, Cheryl Leith chatted with customers at the Reno eNVy store on Sierra Street. When the store emptied out, she returned to the counter where a cardboard case containing 36 wine glasses sat near the register.
The glasses were upturned, resting on their rims, the underside of their feet coated in paint. From the case, Leith selected a glass with a green foot and, from a nearby bucket, a selection of paint pens to use in creating a design on the glass’s bowl.
Reno eNVy is a participant in the River Walk Merchants Association’s monthly wine walk, and painting the glasses the store sells has been a ritual for Leith since she took a job there four years ago.
“We do 10 cases, which is 360 glasses, every month,” she said.
It’s a lot of glasses to paint, but, Leith said, the store generally sells out. And she and the other staff have a system to get the job done. It starts with painting the feet of all of the glasses in a case.
“And we try to do half-cases or quarter-cases, so if one person is painting a case, they don’t get bored and have to paint the same color all the time,” she said.
On this day, half of the wine glasses in her case had green feet and the other half, a silvery white.
“We do the bottoms first, and then we paint pictures or sayings,” Leith said.
For this she uses oil-based Sharpies that are made for glass and can stand up to hand washing. They come in myriad colors, from which she selects a few to complement the shade on the glasses’ feet. Among the sayings she’d painted on this day was “Wine goes in, wisdom comes out.”
She and the other staff also paint sports-themed glasses. For the April 21 wine walk, they painted glasses with yellow and blue, the colors of Reno 1868 FC, the city’s professional soccer team. Little soccer ball stickers completed the motif.
“There’s a little competition between the merchants that paint glasses,” Leith said. “So everybody tries to paint the best they can—of the ones that do paint.”
Some merchants just use stickers, often bearing their logos, Leith explained. But, she said, places like the Jungle—where owner Matt Polley’s wife, Renee Polley, has long painted the glasses—provide stiff artistic competition.
Leith said she enjoys painting glasses, except when she’s rushed—or without help and has to paint all 360. Sometimes Leith’s boss, Reno eNVy owner Scott Dunseath, hosts “paint parties” at his home.
“And it’s usually about 15, 16 people who show up,” she said. “And we all bring something to eat, and everybody paints.”
Leith and her husband Duncan Leith enjoy the paint parties but, she said, the actual wine walks are an even better time.
“And it’s fun especially because Duncan takes IDs, and I’m the one who pours,” she said. “So it’s fun to see how many of my glasses get chosen and come through the line, as opposed to everybody else’s.”
Reno eNVy is known for serving boxed wine. Leith said she thinks its the only merchant that does. And when people come through the line, Leith is known for asking, “Blush, red or suicide?”
Suicide, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a mix of the blush and red wine offerings. It’s something Leith said many people enjoy—though some of them are discreet when asking for it.