Need help with litter or graffiti? White Center woman launching ‘Neat Street’
Story and photo by Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
Lea Kuchan and her 9-year-old daughter have been picking up litter and cleaning away graffiti as a labor of love – both in small day-to-day efforts and as part of big events like White Center Spring Clean.
“It’s an instant-gratification thing,” she smiles – the results are visible immediately.
That was especially true during this year’s Spring Clean, Lea says, when she was on a team “in charge of washing windows,” and someone came by to suggest it would be great if that happened on a regular basis. “At that point, I decided to get some business cards and a business license so I could hand them out to say, ‘I’m available’.”
And so, Lea is on the road to turning her passion into a business – Neat Street. “It came from seeing a need in the community and seeing that there might be an idea for a business at the same time.”
After finding out about it via Facebook, we asked Lea if she could spare some time to sit down and chat about her new business. We chatted one recent night at Company in downtown WC.
She will offer local business and property owners the opportunity to contract for a regular service package “where I would come around once or twice a week and keep an eye on the property – eliminate graffiti, pick up litter, scoop up cigarette butts, (deal with) illegally dumped items like shopping carts …”
Lea has a vested interest in this: Two years ago, she became a White Center homeowner, moving from the West Seattle neighborhood of North Delridge after seven years there, and noticing that her new neighborhood seemed to have a problem with litter and tagging. “I don’t think I would have paid as much attention before becoming a homeowner.”
She’s steadily amassed the tools of the trade – litter grabbers, graffiti remover; she is also passionate about making sure that the remover is earth-friendly, so that there’s no ground/water pollution even as visual pollution is being removed. It requires a fair amount of research, though: “Some graffiti is more stubborn – spray paint on metal, for example, is harder to get off.” Cleaning fluids aren’t the only way to handle it, Lea notes – pressure-washing and even methods involving dry ice and nutshells are all on her list for investigation. “I don’t like the idea of using chemicals.”
Neat Street also will handle litter in an environmentally friendly way, she promises – whatever is picked up that can be recycled, will be recycled.
And she expects to patrol the gutters on the street in front of clients’ businesses/properties, too. “A lot of people throw litter in the gutters.”
Whatever she does, Lea vows there will be “a significant difference from the time I get there to the time I leave.”
She doesn’t plan to abandon her volunteerism; “a lot of (this), I’ll probably honestly do as community service,” she acknowledges, especially as a “neighborly” favor for new businesses as they start up.
Hers, in turn, is ready to get going once she starts finding clients, and she thinks value will be found in it, even beyond the clients themselves: “Litter affects property values, the reputation of a neighborhood. Businesses are affected. We’re hoping to benefit the community.”
And as things get going, Lea’s open to working outside White Center, too.
In addition to community benefit, she’s setting an example for her daughter, though sometimes, she says, it works the other way around – “She’s much more thorough than I am. She’ll see a little tiny rollup of tinfoil, gum wrapper, or something, and she gets very meticulous about it. She insists ALL the litter must be picked up.”
Maybe because she’s seen positive feedback, even from strangers – “My daughter and I were out with our pickup sticks and somebody went by and honked,” Lea explains, “and gave us a thumbs-up. Somebody (else) told my daughter, ‘good job,’ and she said, ‘I feel really good about this’.”
Like many small-business owners, Lea expects this to start as a sideline. She works in the accounting department of a law firm and says she enjoys that work too. But – “I’m an energetic person, and the idea of being outside doing something physical” is attractive too.
You can reach her through her website, NeatStreetSeattle.com.
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