Day 213 - Norwalk
One morning in Malmö in 1985 a visiting developer from Bridgeport, Connecticut, jogged through the streets of the southern city. With fascination he saw Ralf Steinlechner effectively remove graffiti from a wall. The developer was so impressed that he invited over International Graffiti Control to do a demonstration in Bridgeport on the spot. The rest as they say is history.
Austrian born Ralf and his Swedish wife Susanne Steinlechner ran restaurants and discotheques in the south of Sweden when graffiti started becoming a problem. It is expensive and not very environmentally sound to remove graffiti in the traditional way so Ralf tried an old Austrian method to chemically expand paint to make it easier to remove it with pressurized water. The couple designed a mobile unit that could carry around the necessary water and equipment. The success of this method led to the establishment of a Swedish company specializing in graffiti removal and that was about the time when the US invitation came. It is quite a fascinating little story of how an idea can score it big in the United States.
What started off as a six month try has now stretched into more than two decades. When Ralf and Susanne got a contract to clean a Hilton hotel they decided to go all out and move to the US - the homeland of graffiti. The real breakthrough for their company came in 1988 when International Graffiti Control landed the contract to clean New York’s subway and its bridges. ICG has now made graffiti disappear from bridges, schools, churches, libraries, public housing projects, and hospitals. It operates six mobile units in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey and has licensees in France and Italy. Ralf has passed away, so Susanne Steinlechner runs International Graffiti Control herself from Stamford.