For generations, FAO Schwarz has been a childhood icon – a place filled with oversized stuffed animals, games, and every toy imaginable. So it’ll be a sad day when FAO Schwarz closes its doors, and New York City bids goodbye to its Fifth Avenue store on July 15.
As the country’s oldest toy store, FAO Schwarz was founded by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz in 1862 (in Baltimore), and has had a home in New York City since 1870, when its flagship store opened on Broadway. Since then the store has traveled to several locations throughout the city including Union Square, the West Side, and its current location at 767 Fifth Avenue, where it has been for the past 30 years.
With FAO being nothing short of an over-the-top wonderland of unique toys from all around the world, it’s clear why children and adults alike have loved this store for over 150 years. Even the brand’s logo –– consisting of variations of a teddy bear, rocking horse, alphabet blocks, and a clock –– is imprinted in millions of memories.
At Fifth Avenue, the FAO experience begins before you even enter the store, as real-life toy soldiers greet you at the doors and gladly pose for photos with visitors. Once you’re inside, you’re surrounded by enormous plush animals, endless displays of sweets, and escalators that take you further into their massive world of toys. Upstairs, you can find everything from Barbie dolls to remote controlled helicopters, to an earth science section.
And, of course, there’s the giant floor piano that Tom Hanks made famous in the movie Big. To this day, both, tourists and locals stop in to see the piano and try playing their own rendition of “Heart and Soul.” Although smaller replicas of this piano have been present in every other FAO Schwarz location, the one in NYC is the original, making it an extra special attraction in the store.
Although FAO is a luxury brand, New York City’s flagship location has welcomed people from around the globe, and has been a place of childhood enchantment – an environment where kids can explore and surround themselves with their favorite toys, regardless of whether or not they’re able to go home with a massive stuffed lion or rocking horse (many of the price tags are well over $1,000). The toys are fantastic, but simply being there is a memorable experience.
The brand itself, which was acquired by Toys “R” Us in 2009, will still be sold in some Toys “R” Us stores, as well as online. But its home on Fifth Avenue is the last of the company’s stores and, until they can find another retail space, it will be closed indefinitely. So before July 15 rolls around, pay a visit to FAO Schwarz. Bring out your inner kid, get lost in all the toys, and enjoy this childhood legend while you still can.
767 Fifth Ave (at 58th St)
New York, NY 10153
Thanks to Scott McCulley for the photos in this post.