During my recent visit to New York City, I stopped by the recently re-opened FAO Schwarz toy store. The store opened at 30 Rockefeller Plaza on November 16, 2018, just in time for the busy holiday shopping season. From the AP about the store’s cultural impact:
For more than 150 years, FAO Schwarz was known in New York City for its classy and sometimes extravagantly expensive toys. The fantasyland store it opened on Fifth Avenue in 1986 was a tourist attraction, replete with its own theme song, doormen who looked like palace guards and a musical clock tower. Financial problems at the parent company and rising rents closed that store in 2015, but FAO is now pulling back from the worst financial precipice since it was founded in 1862.
In recent weeks at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, workers drilled, hammered and sawed 24 hours a day to get the new store ready. Employees filled shelves with hundreds of plush animals that have long defined the brand — bears, bunnies, elephants, chicks and more. The big entrance clock tower has returned. And on the second level of the 20,000-square-foot space is a giant piano keyboard mat like the one on which Tom Hanks danced to "Heart and Soul" in the 1988 film "Big."
Photos from my visit to FAO Schwarz are below…
Inside FAO Schwarz are “stations” which have a theme, such as the FAO Raceway:
One interesting aspect of FAO Schwarz (and I think it has been true in the past) is that the store offers gifts that range from a few dollars to the thousands. Take, for instance, the Mercedes-Benz toy car encrusted with 44,000 Swarovski crystals. This handwork took over 126 hours to make by artist Kellie DeFries (aka the Crystal Ninja); the price matches the ostentatious glamor—it’s set at a dazzling $25,000.
Video of the FAO Schwarz Mercedes-Benz encrusted with Swarovski Crystals:
The FAO Schwarz store has plenty of ways for kids and adults to entertain themselves even without purchasing anything. For instance, this little nook near the entrance had fun mirrors on all sides which you can photograph yourself and/or your friends or family.
It’s been sad to watch toy retailers such as Toys “R” Us file for bankruptcy—here is to hoping that FAO Schwarz sticks around. This is an illuminating New York Times article on what the new management (Private Equity firm ThreeSixty) of FAO Schwarz is doing to prevent another downfall:
F.A.O.’s new owners are creating thousands of “stores within stores” at other large retailers as well as small stores in airport terminals and other locales across the United States and in China. The new locations will be stocked heavily with F.A.O.-branded stuffed animals and toys. To modernize the brand, the New York store will feature “Instagrammable moments” and soldiers’ uniforms designed by the supermodel Gigi Hadid.
ThreeSixty is essentially trying to replicate the F.A.O. Schwarz experience, while minimizing the costs of personnel, real estate and inventory. Other than its new flagship store in New York’s Rockefeller Center, many of the other locations will be owned and operated by other companies, while F.A.O. will collect franchising fees.
Did you make it to FAO Schwarz in New York City this holiday season? Feel free to comment about your experience or about your favorite part of the store!