CASPER, Wyo — Though the business closed after 103 years of continuous operation last August, there’s one chapter left for the familiar Wardrobe Cleaners building on 2nd and Fenway. That story is the subject of “Wardrobe Cleaners: A Pandemic Story,” new 5-minute documentary produced by Jeremy Miller and featuring David Kerr that premiered on Miller’s YouTube channel on Wednesday.
The video is posted below.
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down public spaces in March, 23-year-old Kerr, a Crossfit instructor and assistant manager at Lifetime Health and Fitness, was left without a gym. So he decided to build his own at Wardrobe Cleaners’ building.
Beyond just having a place to work out, the endeavor gave Kerr an epilogue to a family legacy that began 66-years ago. Kerr’s father, Kelly Kerr, took a job delivering for Wardrobe Cleaners in 1981 and became co-owner 10 years later until its closure.
“The place holds a lot value to me mostly because it was such a big part of my dad’s life.” Kerr said, “It helped build our family. It shaped who I am and who he was.”
Kerr was partially inspired by photos of his father’s own home-build gym in the 1980’s. In exchange for some clean-up work, a somewhat-reluctant Kelly Kerr gave his son the go-ahead to build the gym in the vacant building.
Kerr used equipment from his dad’s home gym and invested in a few new pieces.
The day after it was completed, Kerr got a text from dad: “Gym looks great!”
“There’s a lot of history and years put in to that building and it’s been really cool journey to tell a little bit of that story,” Kerr said.
In the documentary, Kerr recalls visiting his dad at work as a child- running though the racks of clothes and pouring out drawers-full of buttons, fascinated by the assortment of styles.
“When you’re 5 and 6 years old, the world looks so much bigger,” said Kerr.
Miller, the video’s producer, grew up playing baseball with Kerr. Miller got the idea to do a short film on the gym after seeing pictures of it coming together on Kerr’s Instagram. The same evening Miller had been watching surfing documentaries and thought, “Man, that would be so much fun to go film something like that: real people, real stories. To me, that’s more exciting than something fictional.”
In 2012, Miller got one of the first GoPro cameras and started making videos of him and his friends hiking and camping and playing at the lake. He studied Institutional Marketing and Political Science at the University of Wyoming and the University of Hawaii at Manoa
The project has rekindled Miller’s love for creative media, which was “a passion and a hobby, and then I turned it into a business and kind of got burnt out from it. Then I have projects like this where I have total creative freedom, and it reminds me that I still love it.”
Kerr played baseball through high school and ran cross-country. He’s since become a marathoner, a rock climber, and media producer in his own right.
Kerr said he’d also been suffering from some burnout from projects “I probably should have said ‘no’ to.” He explained that he was struggling with where to go next with photography and filmmaking, but the Wardrobe Cleaners gym project “relit a flame” of personal creativity.
Kerr and Miller hope that their story will inspire other to take advantage of the pandemic to improve their own lives. “Get started or finish something they started a while ago, or improve in any regard.” Kerr said. “It could be starting a business, reading more books, reconnecting with friends or rekindling old relationships. I hope whoever watches it will be inspired to make even small, positive changing in their life.”
Kelly Kerr, who has recovered from health issues that had affected him leading up to Wardrobe Cleaners’s closure, got a preview of the film Tuesday night. “It was really cool to see him smiling and laughing, getting that reaction I was hoping for,” Kerr said.
Kerr said his dad has been the biggest influence on his life. particularly “his work ethic and the value of showing up and bringing your best self.” Kerr added, “My dad was there [at Wardrobe Cleaners] 6 days a week for 38 years. Even when he came home, work was on his mind. He’d have to go almost every night in the middle of winter to go turn the boiler so the water pipes wouldn’t freeze.”
Kerr also admires his dad’s ability to connect with people. “He didn’t just have a business. He created relationships. He treated customers like family.”