FAO Schwarz to Close Its Flagship Fifth Avenue Store

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FAO Schwarz soldier Fifth Avenue New York store exterior

New Yorkers and the 50 million people who visit the Big Apple each year have been able to pick up a toy or two at FAO Schwarz since 1870. That streak will come to an end on July 15, when Toys”R”Us, which has owned the brand since 2009, shuts down its flagship location on New York’s Fifth Avenue near the southeast corner of Central Park.

There will, however, still be an FAO Schwarz boutique inside the Toys”R”Us, store in Times Square, a popular destination for tourists with kids, mostly because of the indoor Ferris wheel located there.

Schwarz, America’s oldest toy store, won’t have its own standalone location in Manhattan, however, until the company finds a cheaper place to rent, which is not expected to be until late 2016.

FAO Schwarz

The high rental prices and the proliferation of cheaper online alternatives are what drove Toys”R”Us to finally close the doors of the current spot, which is located not so far from Central Park and has served a the brand’s flagship store for close to 30 years. According to Crain’s New York, Schwarz has been searching in the Times Square area for a better deal than its is current rent of $300 per-square-foot. Its current location should be able to pull in $2,000 per square foot from a new renter, Crain’s estimates.

The store gets jammed during holiday season, and has had up to 40 other locations around the country over the years, the New York Times reports. But each one has shut down in recent years to be replaced by the boutiques inside Toys “R”Us stores.

As Toys”R”Us notes on its corporate website,

Today, FAO Schwarz is not only the oldest toy store in the United States, but one of the oldest retail establishments of any kind. It has evolved from a toy store to a must-see tourist destination, and continues to be well-known for high-quality merchandise and timeless treasures. Throughout its more than 150 years, FAO Schwarz has carried on the tradition of serving as a stage to introduce new and exciting products to consumers.

A pop culture icon for generations, the flagship store in New York City draws thousands of visitors each year who come to witness the magic and wonder of FAO Schwarz. Through the ages, it has been the subject of classic depictions of kids and kids-at-heart, including a 1930s cartoon in The New Yorker and starring roles in countless major motion pictures – perhaps none more renowned than BIG in 1988, in which actors Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dance on the store’s giant foot piano. Most recently, in 2011, the store was prominently featured in the first live action, 3D film dedicated to The Smurfs.

It’s BIG that’s most associated with its legacy, as tourist still pile into the location to recreate the scene. It has become so much a part of Hanks’ legacy that 25 years later, when he appeared on a Hispanic talk show, a humongous piano was rolled out so he could take another crack at it.

Since the news came out about the store’s looming closure, fans have been posting video tours and sharing old memories about the place.

While Toys”R”Us has been around since 1948 and is ranked in the Top 25 of Forbes’s list America’s top private companies, it doesn’t evoke the same kind of love that Schwarz does. Meanwhile, London-based Hamleys, the world’s oldest and biggest toy store, has been owned by French toy retailer Groupe Ludendo since 2012, when it was sold for $93.9 million.

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