FAO Schwarz may have closed, but I'll never say goodbye
Last time I visited FAO Schwarz, I was on a scavenger hunt. At 18 years old, I had just moved to Manhattan from Texas for college. My pre-orientation group spent a Saturday storming New York’s monuments and tourist traps. Minutes before traipsing off to the toy shop, my friend and I had faked an engagement at Tiffany’s, where I tried on a seriously massive rock and giggled (I can check that off my bucket list). We felt a sense of relief when we stepped through FAO Schwarz’s glass doors. For a week now, we had tried to seem mature and prepared for college. Suddenly, we could be kids again.
FAO Schwarz was a New York City icon and until yesterday an FAO Schwarz store had been continuously in one Manhattan location or another since 1862. The reason for closing the famed Fifth Avenue location was due to rising rent prices, but Toys ‘R’ Us (who now owns F.A.O. Schwarz) says they are looking for a new Manhattan home for the store. We are certainly holding our breath. This is the type of toy store dreams are made of.
There are so many quintessential images that come to mind when FAO Schwarz is mentioned: The live toy soldiers guarding the front door, the larger than life stuffed animals lining the walls, the floor piano Tom Hanks famously played “Heart and Soul” on in Big.
Rumor has it, the store is also the birthplace of the in-store Christmas time Santa Claus; so we have FAO Schwarz to thank for that too.
For a child, FAO Schwarz was nearly too good to be true. It was like all of your wildest dreams blended into store-form. One of my first mental snapshots of New York is visiting the store at 9 years old and being completely struck by its wonder. It was a crazy confection of awe, sweetness, and magic. It was a fairy tale brought to life.
According to The New York Times, the line to play the floor piano yesterday (the store’s last day) was as long as it’s ever been. Families, both local and visiting, packed into the toy store to say goodbye. Children ran from toys to candy dispensers, and grown ups stocked up on mementos. Residents took their grandchildren, and mothers played while their toddlers watched in strollers. When employees closed the building at 8 p.m., vacant shelves made their packing job that much easier.
Rather than saying goodbye to this beloved Neverland, I’m opting to say “see you soon.” As the store wrote in a statement to shoppers, “We are excited about the opportunity to create a new flagship store in New York City that will no doubt delight kids and kids-at-heart for generations to come.”
So until then, FAO Schwarz. You are the toy store of our dreams, and we never give up on those.
[Images via Facebook]