Midwest’s largest prop shop turns stacks of old, everyday stuff into a thriving business

Tidying up may be all the rage, but the experts at Zap Props turn stacks of old, everyday stuff into cash. Get a peek inside a hidden gem of Chicago from Zap Props owner Bill Rawski, in his own words.

I got involved with the prop end of the business because I got a call from Universal and the girl was looking for items to work for, "A League of Their Own" with Madonna.

You know, if you're an antique dealer or if you're someone in the prop rental business you use the ceiling, you use everything possible that you can put stuff in. We have a section of just fans, another area we'll have all radios, we have a section of just trophies.

We have 36,000 square feet in this building and we've added on over 36,000 square feet in another building. There could be a million items easily in this space. Not only do we just we have general sales to designers, decorators, but we also uh do restaurants and commercial spaces.

I like going to flea markets. I bought stuff basically [out of] Oregon and got it delivered right here, by guys that were traveling all the way through. Downstairs, I used to have a wall of about a thousand tennis rackets and everybody'd come and say, "why you got all them tennis rackets?"

And it's like there's things that we took for granted back then, and think, you know there's zillions of these made. Well everybody threw them away, and all of a sudden now you have fewer things from the time period.

In this area here this is all our different type of office equipment. This is one of the coolest pieces I think we have this is a credit card machine.

I started as a jukebox operator and video game operator; my father had been in the business. It started bringing me into the antique world of where I was buying, selling different types of antiques.

Both of my kids started at the bottom, both worked in the warehouse hauling stuff around, and my two middle children John and Simone that do work with me, uh Simone has always been very artistic.

It is sort of like a working museum, I mean that's a real big difference of what we have, because you know museums are gonna sit there and they're gonna have their little displays and stuff, but you know where you gonna find a zillion typewriters sittin' around?

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