FAO Schwarz, an iconic toy store in New York, is set to close its doors on July 15 due to the high rent of its current rented premises at Fifth Avenue.
The three-storey, 45,000 square foot store is a playtime paradise to millions of children (and adults) every year with its amazing decorations and huge array of toys. It features a giant floor piano, candy store, larger-than-life displays, enormous stuffed animals, high-end toys and collectibles, various specialty toy departments over the three levels, and personal shopper services.
The toy retailer, known for its unique and sometimes pricey merchandise, was founded in 1862 in Baltimore by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz. While the shop has been in its current Fifth Avenue location since 1986 (almost 30 years), it has held a store space in New York City since 1870, and claims to be the oldest toy shop in the country with 153 years of brand history. Parent company Toys R Us, which acquired FAO Schwarz in 2009, cited ‘high and rising costs’ of renting the space on one of New York’s most expensive streets as the main reason of the store’s closure.
FAO Schwarz gained global fame in June 1988 after the film, ‘Big’, featured a scene that saw actors Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dancing to ‘Heart and Soul’ on the store’s giant floor piano. It is now one of the store’s main attractions, where people can play on it just like in the movie. Tourists from all around the world visit the toy store just to marvel at its displays and play on the floor piano. Besides tourists, the store is also popular among locals and celebrities.
Many fans were sad to hear about the store’s closing, and shared their favourite experiences at the store. Daniel Stuckey recounted to CNN how he ‘rescued’ an abandoned giant Pegasus doll outside the FAO Schwarz toy store in 2011, which subsequently moved around with him and became a permanent fixture in his home. Others took to Twitter to share their fondest memories of the toy store, including braving harsh weather to catch a glimpse of the storefront, playing on the giant floor piano, and buying presents at the store.
However, customers and visitors shouldn’t be too worried, as its closure will likely not be for good. The company is actively looking for a new space in midtown Manhattan to relocate its flagship store. Employees who work at the store would be placed at other Toys R Us stores in New York and New Jersey, while toys carrying the brand’s name will continue to be sold in Toys R Us stores and online.