The iconic toy store F.A.O. Schwarz is closing its flagship store in Manhattan today, July 15, Bloomberg has reported.
Throughout the years, the 153-year-old store has become embedded in popular culture.
FAO Schwarz was founded by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz.
His first store launched in 1962 in Baltimore, and it was called Toy Bazaar.
He relocated to New York City in 1870, where he opened another store, which according to FAO’s history, was called “Schwarz Brothers – Importers.”
By 1876, popularity surged and he opened another store.
FAO Schwarz also launched one of the first ever mail-order retail catalogues.
By 1900, the store changed its name to FAO Schwarz.
It was the ultimate toy store with top-notch and larger-than-life toys — where even Nintendo premiered its Nintendo Entertainment System, as Mental Floss noted.
The store inhabited several locations throughout New York City, but the store that people know, love, and are saying goodbye to moved to its famous flagship location in 1986, according to Bloomberg.
Most famously, the store was featured in the 1988 movie “Big,” when Tom Hanks danced upon the famous large floor piano while playing “Heart and Soul.”
Right Start Inc. purchased FAO Schwarz in 2002, reported the Wall Street Journal, changing the company’s name to FAO, Inc. along with the acquisition.
But hard times were about to fall upon the retailer — FAO filed for bankruptcy twice shortly after the acquisition.
“F. A. O. Schwarz has been considered the gold standard in toy retailing, but faced increasing competition from discounters,” reported the New York Times right after the first announcement of bankruptcy, in January 2003.
It filed for bankruptcy again later that year, and the flagship store went so far to shut its doors, according to the New York Times.
The store reopened in late 2004, thanks to investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co, who purchased the store, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The famous New York flagship reopened on Thanksgiving that year. The New York Times noted the store underwent a massive redesign, too.
FAO Schwarz has been known for its outrageous toy collection.
The store is also known for its over-the-top displays and actors who perform as characters.
The store is also known for being an attraction during the holidays. According to Mental Floss, FAO is responsible for the tradition of having an in-store Santa Claus.
The store was bought by Toys ‘R Us in 2009.
“This was probably one of the only ways to save FAO Schwarz,” toy industry analyst Chris Byrne told Crain’s New York that year. “It solidifies Toys ‘R’ Us as the leading specialty toy retailer in the nation, and it adds a jewel in their crown — they will get more specialty brands.”
In May 2015, Bloomberg reported FAO would shut down its flagship location, citing high rents as a major source of trouble.
The piano still exists, and people have continued to dance upon it.
According to Bloomberg, the store is looking to relocate and is even considering a location on the West Side of Manhattan. And in the meantime, Bloomberg notes that people can purchase FAO-specific toys online.
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