Have you ever thought about where that framed painting in your favorite TV show came from? Or the old school typewriter in that movie that takes place in the 40s? I know that I never really considered where movies and TV shows get the furniture, artwork, toys, and all the other items you see in various scenes until I recently toured a prop company here in NYC called Eclectic/Encore Props. I never imagined there would be a place with as many prop options as what I saw on this tour! This place is filled from floor to ceiling (literally) with every item you could possibly imagine you’d need to create the perfect scene.
Our tour of Eclectic/Encore Props was led by the owner and founder, Ms. Suri Bieler. She started her company in 1979 with just $175 in her pocket and a bank loan to supplement her own savings. She told us about the challenges of getting a loan as a woman in the ‘70s (it took her a long time to get approved), but she was successful in getting $3,000 from a bank and was able to open Eclectic Props (later renamed Eclectic/Encore Props after she acquired Encore Studios in the ‘80s).
Suri’s background was in theater and her company’s initial focus was on providing props for Broadway and off-Broadway shows until she later branched out to film and tv. They also have a photography studio on-site and rent out “parties in a box”, which are complete sets of props and decorations for an endless number of themes.
Today, her 95,000 square foot building is home to more than 1 million objects available to rent (and none for sale). She mentioned that when they moved into this space 5 years ago, it took 167 truckloads to move her entire inventory. They don’t ever get rid of anything because, according to Suri, as soon as she gets rid of something, that’s the one thing that someone will ask for (and also, she really likes “stuff”). This place is just massive, and Suri even gave us maps before we started the tour in case we got separated….
Suri took us through her entire inventory. Everything is barcoded, and choosing props is basically like adding items to a wedding registry. A salesperson will walk around with you and help you find exactly what you’re looking for and scan the barcode for all the items you need. Our first stop was furniture through the years–basically, furniture sets from every era you can imagine, all lined up next to each other, including furniture used in Sex and the City as well as The Sopranos.
Next, we saw all kinds of different sets of dishes and kitchenware, lamps and torches, musical instruments and toys. There are entire sections for Christmas and Halloween decorations and a whole section of nautical-themed props. One section was devoted to telephones, typewriters, computers, and other home equipment from various decades. We saw a desk and props used in the show The Americans as well as a bunch of medical equipment used in the show The Knick. There are a bunch of brightly colored objects she’s acquired from Juicy Couture including some Pepto Bismol-pink suits of armor (which are apparently very popular for Sweet 16 parties.) There is even an entire section devoted to politics-related props like campaign buttons and signs.
Suri is clearly delighted with all her stuff, and her love for her work is evident. For me, personally, all the stuff nearly gave me a panic attack! Fortunately, though, everything is super organized and orderly, so you don’t quite have the feeling that you’ll die in a hoarding accident where a stack of magazines falls on top of you. Though, there is a bit of dustiness about, especially since there are a lot of antiques in her collection, so you might want to pop a Claritin if you decide to make a visit.
And if you do want to visit, check out the New York Adventure Club’s website for upcoming tour times, as they currently offer exclusive tours of Eclectic/Encore Props. If you get a chance to go, do it. Trust me, it’s a place you won’t soon forget, and you won’t watch tv or movies again without examining all their props and wondering whether they came from Suri’s collection!