A superhero’s work may never be done, but a drycleaner is expected to finish on time and
without any mistakes, especially if that cleaner agrees to process all of the
garments for a
blockbuster comic book movie.
The small, family-owned Trotter’s Dry Cleaners of Cleveland has taken on such big
responsibilities twice now, first when The Avengers filmed about a month’s worth of climactic
action scenes locally in August of 2011, and more recently when Captain America: The Winter
Soldier shot at various locations around the city.
Luckily for owner Victoria Trotter, she was unaware of the massive scope of such
when she first agreed to taket on work for the $220-million budgeted Avengers
ultimately became the third highest grossing film ever.
“I had no idea the kind of work and the type of schedule that we’d have to meet,” she said.
“If I had, I probably would have said no. I really didn’t have a clue of what this entailed.”
In all, she believes that her plant handled around 8,000 garments over the span
of a month
for The Avengers. It was enough to make even super-powered icons like Iron Man, Thor and
Captain America tired.
“We picked up at like 8 or 9
o’clock at night. They had to
have it all back at 5
o’clock in the morning,” she
recalled. “We were in here
pretty much around the clock.
We brought in extra people
because we couldn’t handle it
with our crew.”
There were many all-
nighters which only added to
the pressure since Marvel
expected everything back in
“We wanted the work. We
were going to do whatever we
needed to do and it was good
for us. With a business, you
don’t even know what you
have until you are challenged.
It really let us know where we
were strong at and where we were weak,” Trotter noted. “We found a way to make it happen,
to stay on point and keep the quality up, and we did still service our regular
they don’t want to hear that we’re closing down so we can do this movie.”
Essentially, Trotter is just trying to perpetuate the vision that her mother had
she started the business in 1969. A tailor by trade, Clair Trotter had worked at
previously in Mississippi before she moved her family to Cleveland.
With only an eighth grade education and seven kids at home, she thought she
welfare to keep her family fed. As it turned out, she just needed to offer a
“When she came up here, she found out how much money there was to be made in the
drycleaning industry. During her first week, she pressed like 1,700 pieces,” Trotter said.
She had a firsthand seat to watch her mother in action back then; most days,
could be found on the front counter. As the story goes, the ringing of the cash
her both happy and sad.
Despite growing up around the business, Trotter had other plans. After high
attended Kent State University. Not long after that, those plans changed again.
“During my first year of law school, my mother got really ill and she couldn’t work. There was
really nobody to take the helm,” Trotter said. “So, I decided to drop down to part-time status
and come back to the business on a part-time basis.”
Trotter earned her law degree in 1994, but by that time, she had seen enough of
business to know that her mother had created something special.
“I realized my mother had a great foundation. She had a really good, strong brand
she had been in the community so long and had done many great things. People
Trying to follow her mother’s example, Victoria has often used the business to give back to
The company supports a program that sponsors local kids to learn history by
museums in other cities such as Detroit and Washington, DC. They also contribute
Entrepreneur’s Club that teaches kids how to start their own business with little or no
In 2008 and 2012, Trotter donated the use of a part of her building to the Obama
which used it as a staging location. The Obamas returned the favor by inviting
Trotter out to a
speaking engagement at Jacob’s Field where she met the First Lady. Trotter’s mother couldn’t
have been prouder.
“What my mother taught us was there’s no way we can do business in a community and just
make money,” Trotter explained. “It is our obligation to give something back.”
That attitude has helped cultivate a lot of good friendships over the years,
including one with
costumer Harold Crawford who moved to Cleveland from L.A. He still kept his
Hollywood which eventually helped Trotter gain access to the movie work when it
Trotter’s first job was in 2011 for a smaller production called Fun Size starring Johnny
Knoxville, Victoria Justice and Chelsea Handler. However, that was nothing
compared to the
scope of work needed for The Avengers later that year. The business handled everything but
the colorful costumes of the main heroes.
“The ones that the superheroes actually wear... they have all of this technical
stuff that they
hook up to it, so they don’t let us clean, like, Captain America,” Trotter said. “We did a Steve
McQueen jacket. We did thousand-dollar suits, beautiful clothing, evening gowns,
you name it. We did the whole gamut.”
The success of that job has lead to even more work, including some smaller
projects such as
Miss Meadows starring Katie Holmes and Jenny’s Wedding with Katherine Heigl, both set to hit
theaters next year. The company has also serviced outfits for the Fox television
show So You
Think You Can Dance.
Recently, Marvel returned to town and Trotter’s was asked to handle all of the costumes for
the Captain America sequel during their six-week visit.
“That was just as challenging. We didn’t do as many garments, but the logistics were just
crazy,” Trotter recalled. “We were delivering to three trailers plus downtown. Sometimes we
had three deliveries and three pickups in a day.”
At one point, Victoria worked for 26 hours straight. Once again, though, she was
her business was tested and not found wanting.
“We were challenged and we rose to the occasion,” she said. “At times, it was doubtful. Can
we really do this? But we just kept our head down and kept working until it was
All the work has rekindled her love for clothes. Prior to pursuing a law degree,
was interested in studying fashion design.
With such a background, it seems like a no-brainer that Trotter wouldn’t hesitate to see such
amazing garments on the big screen. However, that hasn’t been the case.
“I keep saying I’m going to sit down and watch these movies, but something else comes up
and we’re off to the next adventure,” she laughed.
On a rare occasion when she does manage to finally see a movie, she now looks at
“I look at all of the costumes… what the actors are wearing and how many people are in the
scene. That becomes the focal point for me now.”