The age-old adage is true: what's trash for some is treasure for others.
Eva Radke has made a career out of grabbing the often high-end furniture and props that local film studios dispose of and reselling them. Her business, Film Biz Recycling, is so successful it has expanded to larger spaces several times in just a few short years.
"None of these studios keep their items," said Eva Radke, who recently moved her store to a new location at 540 President St. in Gowanus. "It's an issue of space and cost, and they don't have warehouses to keep everything like they might in Los Angeles."
It's actually shocking how much stuff gets thrown into landfills," she added.
Although the items sold at Film Biz Recycling have come from various movie sets and TV shows filmed around the city, Radke said that isn't the main point of the store.
"We don't advertise items in a manner like, 'This is the chair that Sarah Jessica Parker sat in on Sex in the City!'" she said. "We do have a list of the various shows that have donated to us and are happy to show that to customers, but the selling point for us is that you can find quality, one-of-a-kind pieces that were about to be disposed of at low prices."
Since 2008, over 140 tons of material that would have been thrown away has been sent directly to Radke.
With over 15 years of experience in the film business as an Art Director for commercials, Radke said she saw the opportunity to provide a service that had yet to be offered.
"This is a very niche market," said Radke.
Radke first opened Film Biz Recycling in 2008 in an apartment in Fort Greene where she operated for four months, before moving into a 2,600 square foot space in Long Island City.
The new space in Gowanus is over four times the size of her previous space. The store has thus been able to expand to accept more building and art supplies, in addition to jewelry, artwork and larger pieces of furniture. The store is open 7 days a week.
The cost of items at varies greatly, a pleasing fact for those with smaller budgets. Chairs in the store range in price, for example, from $5 - $250.
"For a $250 chair, you're getting a mid-century piece in mint condition," said Radke. "We gauge our prices by looking up how much an item costs either on eBay or retail, and then cutting that amount in half."
Radke said that most studios contact her directly and tell her that they're bringing a truck full of items. Although donating furniture or other items to a local charity might be the initial thought for many people, the process is often too complex for the tight deadlines of a film company.
"For a place like the Salvation Army to pick up, you need to call them two weeks in advance, provide an inventory and take photos, and then they still reserve the right to reject any items," said Radke. "A lot of times, producers are so busy when they're wrapping up a shoot that properly disposing of items isn't high priority to them, so they just get rid of it however they can."
According to Radke, there are approximately 230 films and 3,000 commercials shot every year in New York City. That number does not include non-union shoots, photo shoots, fashion week, Broadway or off-off Broadway shows. That's a lot of stuff.
Radke said the Gowanus space is perfect because both she and her co-workers live in nearby Park Slope.
"This is pretty much a gift from the universe," said Radke. "The idea of walking to work is such an unbelievable luxury to me."
Although Radke started the business to respond to a need in the film community, she said Film Biz Recycling is also good for the environment and, of course, the customers.
"We just want to keep things out of the landfill," she said. "This business is designed to help the media and film industry, but I think you can still benefit the community."
Five dollars for a chair? Perhaps one a famous actor sat in once? Sounds like a pretty good deal.