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A family legacy and creative passion at Wardrobe Cleaner’s DIY gym

Wardrobe Cleaner gym construction is underway in 2020. (Photo courtesy of David Kerr)

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.

Kelly Kerr’s home gym in the 1980’s inspired his son David to build a gym in Wardrobe Cleaners during the COVID-19 pandemic (courtesy of David Kerr)

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.”

Kelly Kerr presses the final orders of shirts and pants during a morning shift at Wardrobe Cleaners in 2019. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Jerry Kerr, father of David, at his own home-build gym in the late 1980’s (courtesy David Kerr)
Undated photo shows the exterior of the Wardrobe Cleaners building. License plates visible in the photo seem to indicate it was taken between 1988 and 1992 (Photo courtesy of David Kerr)
The current gym of 2020 (courtesy David Kerr)
Jerry Kelly stands at his work station where he spot cleans and runs the dry cleaning machines at Wardrobe Cleaners on Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019. Kelly started out as a delivery boy in 1953 and eventually become co-owner. The 103-year-old business closed in 2019. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Wardrobe Cleaners supplies, photographed during their final days of business in 2019. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
Wardrobe Cleaners machines as they appeared in 2019 as the business was winding down. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)
David Kerr at the gym he built inside the Wardrobe Cleaners building (courtesy David Kerr)