Home of super-mega stuffed animals, magnet of international tourist families and best-loved spot of millions of children, the oldest toy store in the US, Manhattan's FAO Schwarz, is shutting down in July.
Rents in the high-end Fifth Avenue location next to the main Manhattan Apple store and across from the Plaza are too high for the toy business to continue to absorb. The owner of the 153-year-old store, Toys R Us, is searching for another Manhattan location, and hopes to re-open the institution in late 2016.
"The company is committed to the FAO Schwarz brand and growing its legacy," a Toys R Us spokesman told Bloomberg. The company is trying to find jobs for the 200 FAO employees at Toys R Us stores, which will continue to sell FAO Schwarz products.
FAO Schwarz is an event as much as a store for kids, and has featured baby dolls lined up in a "nursery" attended to by nurses, an Eiffel tower built of Legos, miniature, drivable sports cars, and a giant piano keyboard mat children play with their feet just as Tom Hanks did in the 1988 movie Big. Toys R Us bought FAO in 2009.
The store was founded in Baltimore in 1862 by German immigrant Frrederick Otto Schwarz. It moved several times until settling for 55 years on Fifth Avenue, then switched to its current location across the street to the General Motors Building nearly three decades ago.
The company's iconic FAO Schwarz Clock Tower greeted visitors the store from 1986 to 2004, singing "Welcome to our world of toys."
"They're not going to die," said one optimistic realtor. "When they open up, everybody will come back."