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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981

Movie Props Bring ‘Joy’ to Wisconsin Manufacturer

Written by  Shannon J. Winslow-Claunch, Editor

Joy Mangano and Jennifer Lawrence at
the opening of “Joy.” Photo courtesy
20th Century Fox

What is a Mop? Yes, a Mop is an everyday essential tool that commercial custodians rely on to clean floors, but when is a mop so much more than that? It became more when Algoma Mop Manufacturers, in conjunction with East Shore Industries—a nonprofit rehabilitation center in Wisconsin offering career training for those with special needs—was commissioned to supply mops as props for 20th Century Fox major motion picture “Joy,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert Di Niro and Bradley Cooper. And while Algoma’s American made, high quality mops have been a symbol of independence for employees since 1981, now the mop has become a cinematic symbol of creativity and entrepreneurship.

On January 10, 2016 Lawrence won her third Golden Globe as best actress for her betrayal of Joy Mangano in “Joy.” The rags to riches true comedy that opened Christmas Day grossed $17.5 million and tells the story of single-mom, inventor and QVC mogul, from Smithtown, New York who invented the Miracle Mop. With a BA in business administration from Pace University and an inventor’s spirit, Mangano was inspired by her daughter’s doll’s hair about how to make the traditional mop better with a little ingenuity…and a twist.

Miracle Mops
Brent LaCrosse, Matt Bair, East
Shore Industries and Algoma Mop
Manufacturers clients with Allen
Watella, Sales Director show off some
of the Miracle Mops that are exactly
like the ones seen in the movie “Joy.”

On her first appearance on QVC in 1992, Mangano sold more than 18,000 self-wringing mops in less than a half hour. She went onto sell millions of Miracle Mops and created scores of other products, such as Rolykit, Huggable Hangers and the Piatto Bakery Box. Mangano has said of her inventions, “It’s not innovation for innovation’s sake. It’s innovation for a reason.”

But in December of 2014, the general public didn’t know that the Joy Mangano Miracle Mop movie was in production, so when the prop master of “Joy” called Algoma, asking the Director of Sales, Allan Wartella some general questions, he didn’t think much of it. Wartella says he chatted with her as he would any other customer in subsequent calls about their similar backgrounds and ice fishing adventures.

Once Wartella learned the prop master’s true intentions however, he became intrigued at learning about the process of fulfilling the order and hopeful the team at Algoma could deliver on the lofty request. “She finally said, ‘here’s what we need; tell me what you need to get it done?’” EBay had already been scoured for Miracle Mops but because they had been out of production for so long, the prop master was only been able to find a total of thirty. Wartella was asked to keep the details a secret if they were to be awarded the contract.

Algoma Mop Manufacturing was ultimately contracted with to make the props for “Joy” and employees at Algoma say it was all very hush-hush until the movie debuted in theaters. In fact, employees (knows as clients) at East Shore Industries didn’t even realize they were really participating in mop prop production. “It was business as usual for our clients,” says Tracy Nelson, CEO of East Shore Industries.

Wartella was soon provided with archival footage of the original Miracle Mop production showing the process and looper (the loom used to stretch the three hundred feet of yarn on each mop head). He soon realized that Algoma had no equipment that was similar to what the footage showed. New loopers would need to be fabricated from scratch, so Wartella drew up a design and enlisted the help of another local business, Olson Fabrication. Because the screenplay simulated factory production of the Miracle Mop, all the equipment that was made to manufacture the mops was also used as props in “Joy.”

Over a two week period, working nights and weekends, the team at Algoma made over five hundred mops, in various stages of production as requested by the prop master. In order to get the full effect of the mop manufacturing floor, they also provided 20th Century Fox with several large bales of yarn and hand-operated mop looping work stations, scrap yarn pieces and even cotton dust bunnies.

Nelson says that she and the management of Algoma are planning a movie viewing day for all eighty-two of their clients this month so “they can see their efforts come full circle.” She is hopeful that the clients involved in the prop production will be able to grasp the concept of their work being on the big screen. “For our clients, being involved in something so visible to others can really build their confidence,” says Nelson.

East Shore Industries, named for their location on the shore of Lake Michigan, currently serves eighty-two people with disabilities across Kewaunee County in Wisconsin. They provide hands-on experience, a pay check and pride in knowing that their clients’ contributions to society matters. And because all East Shore clients have different abilities, Nelso says they “work hard to fit the right person for the right job.”

She went onto say, “The example we set here (for other potential employers) is that through minor changes in the process of a work task, someone who has limited abilities can still perform their duties and do them well.”

The details of the props really mattered to the movie’s director, David O’Russell, who also directed “Silver Lining Playbook” (2012) and “American Hustle” (2013). O’Russell is so discerning that one point mop production was stopped to switch out hunter green tape to Kelly green which more commonly used in the 90’s. When prop production was finally complete in February of 2015, the mops, looms and stations had to be shipped to Boston for production, but a snow storm hit the city, delaying incoming shipments. So instead of shipping by truck, alternative means had to be made. Wartella says he was very surprised at the lengths taken to ship the bulky props by train and plane at the last minute in order to prevent a delay in production.

Nelson says that 20th Century Fox rewarded Algoma well and paid them a “very fair price” for delivering on their promise of rebirthing the once popular and widely accessible Miracle Mop and that the experience was fulfilling for all those involved. Nelson says that once Algoma formed a relationship with the prop master and she felt comfortable that they could deliver on time, 20th Century Fox didn’t bother shopping around with other manufacturers.

The resulting craftsmanship of prop mops was not unlike the other products Algoma produces. Each year they pump out $600,000 worth of common and not so common varieties of commercial mops to schools, prisons and distributors, worldwide.


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