American Pickers antiques

Halfstack Fall Issue Sneak Peek: Zap Props

Monday, September 15, 2014 HALFSTACK MAGAZINE

Written by: Jennifer Lezan as featured in Halfstack's Fall Issue.

In an unassuming, yet creepy drive off of Loomis Place on the Southside of Chicago, a place where history meets progress, rises multiple post modern manufacturing buildings that have long since been abandoned or repurposed. One building in particular boasts a collection of trinkets, oddities and vintage Americana unlike anything that you will find in the area. Behind this hauntingly beautiful fa├žade of crumbling brick and stone you will find workers packing and unpacking, historians, business people, creatives, designers and the curators of the past. These interesting and inquisitive people are the lifeline behind what Chicagoans know as Zap Props.


Zap Props is a prop and antique warehouse located in Bridgeport run by Bill Rawksi, Chicago’s own curator of vintage and the key holder of the beautifully mundane. Zap Props is 36,000 square foot warehouse hidden within the confines of walls that are likely as old as the props being stored within them. In order to understand the enormity of it, one must visit to truly understand it. It’s an eerie wonderland where creatives of all industries can get lost in time exploring the vast, never ending shelves filled with treasures of times past. 

Bill got his start in the amusement and coin operated machine business over 30 years ago. He was helping his father at the time that ran a route throughout the area and even back then, Bill had an innate business sense and intuition. He saw an opportunity to grow and decided to buy a gumball machine route. As time progressed, he became fascinated with the older machines and started collecting them. He was astounded to find that, as he continued to visit flea markets to search for machines, people were actually collecting restored machines. It was at this point that he stumbled upon the fact that people were becoming ever more intrigued with the “Americana” aesthetic.




Over time, his collection grew and he saw an opportunity to take his business in a different direction as the amusement and coin operated industry was starting to die off. He continued to grow his collection and focus on working the antique and prop market. There was a chance opportunity that started with a little film called “A League of their Own” that helped Zap Props become a well-known player in the industry. Bill found his niche, as there were not, and still are not many prop houses of the stature of Zap Props in the city of Chicago. His innate business sense also helped him create a name for himself. Today, some of his biggest business clients come from the restaurant industry throughout the US and abroad. He has even been showcased on shows such as American Pickers.

If there is one thing that Bill understands, it is that networking is an extremely important part of his business. But, no you’re not going to find this blue-collar and down to earth dude rubbing elbows and hobnobbing in some fancy setting. Rather, this gruff guy has his own special way of connecting with Film Directors, Stylists, Designers and locals. He is a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy and that’s what truly seems to have helped him succeed. He is nimble on his feet and can adjust with the ebb and flow of the ever-changing business he is in. Yet, he remains humble and grateful about the opportunities he has found. Having worked with the likes of companies such as Rossati’s, Aurelios and The Tilted Kilt, Bill still maintains a humble attitude that speaks volumes about his character.

For the full article, check back Wednesday Sept. 17, 2014 to read the complete story in Halfstack’s Fall 2014 Issue. You can download the latest copy of the magazine at: www.issuu.com/halfstackmag

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