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FAO Schwarz is an American toy brand and store.[1] The company is known for its high-end toys, life-sized stuffed animals, interactive experiences, brand integrations, and games.[2]

FAO Schwarz
Founded1862; 157 years ago (1862) (as Toy Bazaar)
Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.
FounderFrederick August Otto Schwarz
HeadquartersRockefeller Center
New York City, New York, U.S.
Number of locations
1 (with two satellite location at JFK International Airport and LaGuardia Airport)
ProductsToys, Clothing, Baby Products
ParentW. R. Grace and Company (1970–1974)
Christiana Companies
Morse Partners (1986–1990)
Vendex KBB (1990–2001)
Right Start (2001–2004)
Toys "R" Us (2009–2016)
ThreeSixty Group

FAO Schwarz is the oldest toy store in the United States, first opening its doors in 1862 in Baltimore before moving to New York City, where it has moved between several locations since 1870. The dance-on piano, made famous by the 1988 Tom Hanks’ film Big, brought national attention to the brand. FAO inc. filed for bankruptcy twice in 2003 before temporarily shuttering the Fifth Avenue store in January 2004. In May 2009, Toys "R" Us Inc. acquired FAO Schwarz, but in 2015, it permanently closed the Fifth Avenue store. The brand was then acquired by ThreeSixty Group, who opened the new FAO Schwarz store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in November 2018.



Early historyEdit

FAO Schwarz was founded in 1862 in Baltimore under the name "Toy Bazaar" by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz.

In 1870, Schwarz opened a New York City location known as the "Schwarz Toy Bazaar" at 765 Broadway, which moved to 42 E. 14th Street in Union Square in 1880 and operated at that location until April 28, 1897, when it took over two vacant store locations at 39 and 41 W. 23rd Street. By then, The New York Times described Schwarz as "the largest dealer in toys in this city."[3]

Beginning in November 1869, the Schwarz Toy Bazaar held an exhibition of toys that would be available for the Christmas season, which in 1883 was described as the "14th Annual Exhibition."[4] In 1896, Schwarz proclaimed the store as the "Original Santa Claus Headquarters" in New York.[5] The FAO Schwarz holiday catalog has been published annually since 1876.[6][7]

In 1931, the New York City location moved to 745 Fifth Avenue where it operated for 55 years. In 1963, FAO Schwarz was purchased by Parents magazine.[8] The terms of the deal read that it would license the name FAO Schwarz and continue using it for a maximum of five years before dropping the name, while still paying the Schwarz family a royalty on sales. However, the lease was renewed as the owners felt the name was too significant to lose. Part of the price of keeping the name was to keep the royalty agreement, and the Schwarz family set up a foundation to fund opportunities for young people to work in nonprofit with the income the royalties were making. Nine percent of the company remained in the hands of the Schwarz family. The company subsequently sold to W.R. Grace in 1970, and then to toy retailer Franz Carl Weber of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1974.[9]

Storefront in GM building

In 1985, Christiana Companies, a San Diego, California based company, owned FAO Schwarz for just one year. In 1986, Peter Harris, with the help of Philadelphian investment banker, Peter Morse, bought the company under Morse Partners Ltd. and moved the toy store across 58th Street to the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street. FAO Schwarz was sold to Netherlands-based NV Koninklijke Bijenkorf Beheer (later renamed Royal Vendex/KBB NV) in 1990. Throughout the 1990s, new FAO Schwarz stores opened throughout the United States and by 2000 the company had 40 locations.

Right Start, FAO Inc. and bankruptcyEdit

In 2001, the Calabases-based toy retailer Right Start, Inc. purchased 23 of the 40 stores, including the Fifth Avenue flagship store, from Royal Vendex for somewhere between $50 to $60 million.[10]

In 2002, Right Start Inc. changed its corporate name to FAO Inc. operating stores under The Right Start, Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz names.[11] On December 17th, the company projected they would find bankruptcy if its bank did not relax borrowing restrictions. On January 13, 2003, FAO inc. filed for bankruptcy,[12] but emerged from it three months later in April. The company filed for bankruptcy a second time in December 2003.[13] All 13 remaining FAO Schwarz locations closed in January 2004 as a result of the bankruptcy, with the flagship Fifth Avenue store expected to reopen in July of that year but the others closing permanently.[14] The Fifth Avenue store reopened several months later than planned on Thanksgiving Day 2004, redesigned and renovated to accommodate a growing number of tourists,[15] and the Las Vegas location at the Forum Shops at Caesars ultimately remained open until 2010.[16]

D. E. Shaw & Co.Edit

In February 2004, investment firm D. E. Shaw & Co., L.P., acquired the FAO Schwarz stores in New York and Las Vegas, as well as FAO Schwarz's catalog and internet business.[17] The New York and Las Vegas stores were reopened on Thanksgiving Day 2004.[18] In November 2007, FAO Schwarz acquired premium children's clothing company Best & Co., which had plans to expand,[19] but the company ceased business in 2009.

Toys "R" Us, Inc.Edit

In May 2009, Toys "R" Us Inc. acquired FAO Schwarz.[20] In 2009, Toys "R" Us subsequently put temporary FAO Schwarz boutiques in its U.S. Toys "R" Us stores for the holidays, and in October 2010, the concept was expanded into permanent boutiques in Toys "R" Us stores. In addition, FAO Schwarz-branded infant and toddler items are available in all of its Babies "R" Us stores nationwide.[21] The company closed the Las Vegas location in January 2010,[22] followed by its previous flagship New York store. The brand's current flagship store reopened by ThreeSixty Group Inc. in 30 Rockefeller Plaza in November 2018.

ThreeSixty GroupEdit

In October 2016, ThreeSixty Group, Inc. acquired FAO Schwarz from Toys ‘R’ Us, Inc.

The FAO Schwarz brand is currently the property of the descendants of the founder through the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation[23] but is exclusively operated by ThreeSixty Group. In August 2018, ThreeSixty Group announced plans to open a new FAO Schwarz store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Rockefeller Center, and a second store at LaGuardia Airport by November 2018.[24][25]

In October 2018, FAO Schwarz pop-up stores opened at 90 Hudson's Bay Company stores across Canada, just ahead of the Christmas holiday season, to remain open through the holidays.[26] The new location at 30 Rockefeller Plaza opened on November 16, 2018.[27][28]


FAO Schwarz is known for its large assortment of plush animals and the Piano Dance Mat, a smaller replica of The Walking Piano featured in the Tom Hanks film Big.[7] FAO Schwarz also features limited-quantity luxury items including a drivable, child size Mercedes Benz encrusted with over 40,000 Swarovski crystals and valued at $25,000.

In addition to its own line of products, FAO Schwarz carries brands including Steiff, the world's oldest and best-known German designer of stuffed animals, Melissa & Doug, a leading designer and manufacturer of educational toys, and Build-A-Bear Workshop, a Make-Your-Own experience featuring a selection of exclusive FAO Schwarz furry friends and accessories, among other in-store retail partners.


Through the years, the FAO Schwarz logo has had versions that included a teddy bear, ABC blocks, a toy soldier, rocking horse and animated clock tower.[29] In 2010, the FAO Schwarz logo was redesigned in colors of red and silver. The new logo emphasized the initials of company founder, Frederick August Otto Schwarz.[30] It also debuted a company mascot, "Wit".[29] In 2017, FAO Schwarz hired design studio, Mattson Creative, to rebrand the FAO Schwarz logo and packaging. Mattson Creative also created the store's reopening tagline and hashtag, "Return to Wonder".

In popular cultureEdit

The Walking Piano

The New York store was featured in the 1988 Tom Hanks film Big, in which Hanks and Robert Loggia danced "Heart & Soul" and "Chopsticks" on the store's large dance-on piano.[31] Subsequently, it was also featured in the Broadway adaptation of the film, Big: The Musical, in 1996.

The store's interior was featured in the 1992 film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York for the fictional "Duncan's Toy Chest".[32]

In 1995, the store was featured in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite in the final scene where main characters Lenny and Linda have a chance encounter. It is also featured in Baby Boom (1987) and Big Business (1988), among others.[33]

In 2011, the store was featured in The Smurfs during an "action-packed" chase scene in which the Smurfs encounter the evil wizard Gargamel.[34] Scenes from the movie were shot over five nights in May 2011.[35]


  1. ^ "FAO Schwarz: 150 Years of Toys". Archived from the original on January 16, 2014.
  2. ^ "Toys 'R' Us has big plans for luxe retailer FAO Schwarz". Archived from the original on October 26, 2012.
  3. ^ "To Move Up-Town," New York Times; April 28, 1897; page 3.
  4. ^ Display Ad," New York Times; November 11, 1883; page 15.
  5. ^ Display Ad," New York Times; November 26, 1896; page 3.
  8. ^ "Toy Store's Philosophy Is Tender Loving Care", The New York Times, September 7, 1964.
  9. ^ Beller, Thomas. "Toys Were Us: The Tragic End of F.A.O. Schwarz", Town & Country, November 18, 2015.
  10. ^ "FAO Schwarz Sells Stores to Educational Toy Firm", The Washington Post, November 20, 2001.
  11. ^ "The Right Start buys FAO Schwarz". Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved November 2, 2009.
  12. ^ The New York Times. January 13, 2003 Retrieved May 2, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  13. ^ Hays, Constance L. (December 3, 2003). "FAO to File for Bankruptcy And Break Up Toy Empire". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  14. ^ Day, Sherri (January 27, 2004). "F.A.O. Schwarz Closes, Disappointing Visitors". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  15. ^ Guerrero, Susan. "F.A.O. Schwarz to Reopen; Timing Is No Coincidence", The New York Times, November 23, 2004.
  16. ^ Green, Steve. "FAO Schwarz lets Forum Shops lease expire, quietly leaves Las Vegas", Las Vegas Sun, February 9, 2010.
  17. ^ "Turnaround Firm Buys FAO for $41M".
  18. ^ "Famous toy store to reopen". USA Today. November 23, 2004.
  19. ^ "FAO Schwarz Buys Best & Co".
  20. ^ "Toys "R" Us Acquires FAO Schwarz, Fifth Avenue Store". Bloomberg. May 28, 2009. Retrieved May 28, 2009.
  21. ^ "FAO Schwarz delivers new branding to its stores and web site".
  22. ^ Green, Steve. "FAO Schwarz lets Forum Shops lease expire, quietly leaves Las Vegas". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved March 18, 2016.
  23. ^ United States Patent and Trademark Office. "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval: Serial Number 78759620". Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  24. ^ Passy, Charles. "FAO Schwarz Is Set to Return, And It Needs People to Dance on the 'Big' Piano". WSJ. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  25. ^ "The world's most iconic toy store is reopening after suddenly shutting down 3 years ago". Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  26. ^ Hudson's Bay to bring iconic toy brand FAO Schwarz to Canada, Toronto: HBC news release, October 9, 2018
  27. ^ Thomas, Lauren (November 16, 2018). "FAO Schwarz makes its return to New York. Here's what its new store looks like inside". CNBC. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  28. ^ "The world's most iconic toy store is reopening after suddenly shutting down 3 years ago". Business Insider. Retrieved October 27, 2018.
  29. ^ a b "FAO Schwarz Evolving, Rebranding".
  30. ^ "FAO Redesigns Brand with New Logo, Packaging".
  31. ^ "FAO Schwarz – Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on FAO Schwarz".
  32. ^ "F.A.O. Schwarz Toy Store on Fifth Avenue in NYC Is Closing: Details". May 16, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  33. ^ "New York Tours visiting FAO Schwarz: Explore New York City through its famous TV & movie locations!".
  34. ^ "FAO Schwarz Gets Smurftastic Makeover, Celebrating Appearance in Smurf Film".
  35. ^ "THE SMURFS: Production Notes" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 29, 2011. Retrieved April 4, 2012.

External linksEdit