Friday, January 23, 2004
Ettore Steccone: Inventor of Modern Squeegee

Italian immigrant Ettore Steccone, a window washer, invented the modern squeegee in 1936 in Oakland. Ettore was derermined to create something out of his garage and turn it into a big company, which nows has 80 employees and $50 million in annual revenues.

Ettore had to give away his products for a considerable time, in order to create a market, which now they dominate.

Ettore Steccone died in 1984. His wife, Emma, the matriarch of the company who knew all employees by their first name, died last month.

Their daughter's husband's family the Smahliks, now run/own the company.

The "squeegee" goes back to the Middle Ages. Explained further on in the Report.
Thanks to Pat Gabriel

Squeegee maker still cleans up


By Alec Rosenberg,
Business Writer
Oakland Tribune
Thursday, January 22, 2004

ITALIAN immigrant Ettore Steccone, a window washer, invented the modern squeegee in 1936 in Oakland. His squeegee revolutionized the window cleaning profession and blossomed into a business that still thrives today.

Ettore Products Co. is the leading maker of squeegees for professionals and consumers. The profitable 80-employee company continues to be family owned and based in Oakland, with annual revenue approaching $50 million.

Ettore has grown by branching out into the home consumer market. In mid-February, the company will introduce a new line of shower squeegees for kids called Cleaning Critters. Also, it is introducing squeegees with bigger handles, the Pro Grip series. Meanwhile, Ettore has maintained its streak-free quality by keeping Steccone's original squeegee design.

"We've been using them for a long time," said Ken Callegari, business manager of Century Window Cleaning, which cleans commercial buildings in Oakland, San Francisco, Concord and Walnut Creek. "They're easy to use. They're durable. They're light. They're well-made."

Before Ettore, workers used the Chicago squeegee, which had two pieces of rubber and 12 screws. It was heavy and difficult to change the rubber.

Steccone's squeegee was lightweight, with one piece of rubber and two clips. It was easier to use, but people were reluctant to switch.

"At first, he gave them away to window cleaners," said Steccone's daughter, Diane Smahlik, Ettore's chairwoman. "They would give him a hard time. They said it was a toy."

But Steccone kept giving away the squeegees, and window cleaners started to use them and liked them so much that it persuaded a large New York wholesaler to order them. That wholesaler, J. Racenstein & Co., remains a customer and the Borsalino hat it gave to Steccone to mark the initial order is still in the company's office near Oakland International Airport.

"He was a determined immigrant who was able to create something out of his garage and turn it into a big company," said Richard Fabry, publisher of American Window Cleaner magazine in Point Richmond.

Ettore Products persevered through bumps over the years to become the industry leader. The company never borrowed a penny until it expanded into its current building in the 1970s, Smahlik said.

The company does most of its production at its 35,000-square-foot headquarters on Pardee Drive. It also has a nearby 35,000-square-foot warehouse in Oakland and offices and warehouses in China and the Netherlands. Ettore exports to 60 countries, accounting for 20 percent of sales.

Ettore Steccone died in 1984. His wife, Emma, the matriarch of the company who knew all employees by their first name, died last month.

The family still plays a key part. In addition to chairwoman Smahlik, Steccone son-in-law Michael Smahlik is CEO and granddaughter Nicole Smahlik is marketing manager. But it also has a key non-family executive, President Pat Murphy, a former Schlage Lock employee who has worked at Ettore for 14 years and led the company into the home consumer market.

Ettore has 75 percent of the professional window cleaning business, but that market isn't growing, Murphy said. Ettore now gets most of its sales from consumer squeegees, where it has an 80 percent market share, he said.

"Had we not been able to (sell to consumers), we probably couldn't sustain the business," Murphy said.

But it has, helping to boost sales by at least 8 percent each of the past 12 years. Ettore's top customers include Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace, Orchard Supply and True Value hardware stores.

Ettore squeegees retail for $6 to $10, with soap running $5 and extension poles $15 to $20. Cleaning Critters, which will include handles shaped like ducks, dolphins and starfish, will sell for $7 apiece.

"We're trying to make it look like it's fun," Murphy said.

Ettore considers its biggest competitor to be Windex glass cleaner spray. Only a few companies make squeegees, partly because it is a niche market but also because it is difficult to make the rubber.

"The rubber is the key ingredient," Murphy said.

Ettore goes through 6 million feet of replacement rubber a year. Ettore's rubber formula is a carefully guarded secret. The rubber is cut to have a razor-sharp square edge. Veteran workers inspect each piece by hand and toss out imperfect ones.

"You can't see it. You can only feel it," Murphy said.

But you can see the results of using an Ettore squeegee. And enjoy the view.

"Our slogan is 'We do windows,'" Murphy said.

Oakland Tribune Online - Business News,1413,82%257E10834%257E1907345,00.html
by Joe D'Agnese

Such a simple invention. Yet the great ones invariably are. A blade of rubber, a handle perfectly angled for its purpose. A patent followed, and professional window cleaning was forever changed. The year was 1936. an, Ettore Steccone. Often imitated, never duplicated, his original squeegee design has remained essentially unchanged since its inception.

His secret was, and is, in the rubber. With the same secrecy and security afforded soft drink formulas, the ingredients and formulation of Ettore rubber are carefully guarded. For this is the essential heart of the system a razor-sharp square edge, supple, smooth, consistent, which leaves glass perfectly clean and streak free.

The squeegee goes back to the Middle Ages, when fishermen scraped fish guts off boat decks with wooden swabs called "squilgees." It wasn't until the turn of the 20th century that window washers adopted a rubber-bladed version of the tool.

The Chicago squeegee, a heavy brute with two stiff pink rubber blades, was the state of the art until 1936, when Italian immigrant Ettore Steccone invented a light, brass- handled tool with a single, ultra-flexible blade. The "Ettore," still manufactured by the late Steccone's Oakland, California–based company, remains a favorite among professionals.

Window washer Jan Demczur used an Ettore squeegee to free himself and five others from an elevator shaft in the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks. The blade was lost, but Demczur's squeegee handle is now enshrined at the Smithsonian.

Windows That Wash Themselves
Given people's aversion to washing windows, it's no wonder that at least two companies, Pilkington and PPG Industries, now make glass that cleans itself.

The secret ingredient is titanium dioxide, a metallic compound that's permanently embedded in the surface of the molten glass during manufacture but doesn't affect its transparency.

When exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays, the titanium dioxide kicks off a chemical reaction that disintegrates organic dirt, such as tree sap, pollen, and dead bugs.

The coating also makes the glass hydrophilic; that is, water doesn't bead up but spreads out in sheets that slice off loosened debris like an invisible squeegee. "It doesn't leave glass sparkling like it came out of the dishwasher," says Chris Barry, director of technical services for Pilkington, "but it's still quite clean." Windows with self-cleaning glass cost about 20 percent more than ordinary windows but need cleaning only about half as often.

Squeegee Clean
How to wash windows like a pro

Ideally, windows should be washed twice a year, but it's a task most people don't look forward to. Part of what makes window washing such a chore is that homeowners insist on doing it with wadded-up paper towels or newspaper, spray cleaner, and a ton of elbow grease.

"All that rubbing isn't a good idea," says Brent Weingard, owner of Expert Window Cleaners in New York City. "You're just moving dirt around from one spot to another and putting a static charge on the glass, which attracts dust and dirt.

As soon as you finish, the window looks dirty again."

It's easier and more effective to clean glass like the pros do: with a squeegee and a few other readily available tools. The techniques aren't complicated, he says, and the results may surprise you. "I don't know of anything that can transform living spaces so well. You don't know what you're missing until you do the windows."

Cleaning a Picture Window

Picture windows call for large tools. The long cloth head of a strip applicator soaks up a lot of soapy water and knocks dirt loose without scratching the glass. For a cleaning solution, Weingard uses just a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water — the less suds, the better.

Starting at the top left, pull the squeegee over the soapy pane in a reverse-S pattern (left- handers would start at the top right). At the end of each stroke, wipe the squeegee's blade clean with a lint-free rag. Cloth diapers or old linen napkins are perfect for this task.

Remove any water remaining on the edges of the glass with a damp, wrung-dry chamois, which soaks up wetness without leaving streaks. Dry the windowsill with a rag.

Scrub the panes
A handheld sponge or hog-bristle brush works best on multipane windows. Weingard prefers natural sponges. "They're firmer and more absorbent than synthetics," he says. Using the same solution of a squirt of liquid soap in water, he rubs each pane from left to right, top to bottom, working the sponge edges or brush bristles into the corners to loosen dirt.,17071,463755,00.html

An original "New Deal" Ettore Squeegee, built in 1937 was used continually by a window cleaner for more than 34 years. It sits on permanent display in the Ettore Historical Window Cleaning Collection.

Ettore products are unconditionally guaranteed to deliver nothing less than flawless performance. Exacting quality control and hand inspection of literally every inch of rubber produced means that defects simply don't leave the factory.

Ask a professional to name the #1 brand of squeegee and you'Ìl get the same answer today as you would have 60 years ago - Ettore, hands down. In a world where everyone talks quality but few deliver, Ettore offers nothing less than unfailingly superior quality to professionals in every part of the industry.

ETTORE Products Company was founded in 1936 and manufactures professional window cleaning supplies for the hardware, home center and institutional market. We pioneered the segment and are the #1 brand sold in all of the top 10 home centers, hardware co-ops and wholesalers in the United States as well as in B&Q in the United Kingdom.

We sell in more than fifty countries world wide and have a fully stocked distribution center in The Netherlands. The window squeegee was invented by Ettore Steccone in 1936. The market today includes squeegees, washers, soap, extension poles and other accessories. Our program is guaranteed so there is no risk to the retailer or wholesale distributor to stock and sell the #1 brand of consumer window cleaning products.

ETTORE PRODUCTS COMPANY - Member Worldwide Do It Yourself Council