We recently took a tour of Eclectic/Encore Props, one of the largest prop rental companies on the East Coast. Located in a 95,000 sq ft former Pepsi factory in Long Island City, Queens, Eclectic/Encore Props rents its nearly two million props to movies, television shows and Broadway productions all over the country.
Suri Bieler, a veteran stage designer, started Eclectic Props 40 years ago, supplying furnishings for Broadway shows. In 1989, she acquired Encore Studios and added movies and television shows to the operation. As the collection has grown, she has needed to find larger spaces to house everything, and I was constantly overwhelmed by just how much stuff is housed in this unassuming warehouse.
When we arrived for the tour, we received a map of the warehouse, which is impressively organized by theme. Every single object is barcoded and cataloged, which makes locating and returning specific pieces easy. There is a shipping department on the ground floor, where props are carefully wrapped and sent to their temporary homes.
Within the collection is every theme imaginable—Egyptian, holidays, religious, medieval, rugs, Victorian, Mid-Century, diner, rustic, sports and weapons, toys, school, garden, music and medical, etc. Bieler chooses new pieces from closing Broadway shows, private collections and estate sales. When asked if she ever sells pieces from the collection—a question she says she gets all the time—she replied with an emphatic "no."
My only complaint about our tour was that it was woefully short. I could've spent days inside of the warehouse marveling at each piece in the collection, and every room we encountered was better than the last. I practically had to be dragged kicking and screaming from the medical room and it took all of my willpower not to swipe something from the mannequin head shelf or the diner room. I've always been interested in production design for shows but now I think that Bieler might actually have my dream job—she found a way to turn hoarding and thrift store shopping into an organized and lucrative profession and I'm mostly jealous that I didn't think of it first.