FAO Schwarz

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F.A.O. Schwarz
Type Privately held company
Industry Retail
Founded 1862
Headquarters General Motors Building
New York City
Number of locations 1
Products Toys, Clothing, Baby Products
Parent Toys "R" Us
Website fao.com

FAO Schwarz, founded in 1862, is the oldest toy store in the United States.[1] The company is known for its unique high-end toys, life-sized stuffed animals, dolls, and games.[2] The FAO Schwarz flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City is a popular tourist destination, and has gained iconic status for its floor piano and cameos in major motion pictures.[1]

The FAO Schwarz brand is currently the property of the descendants of the founder through the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation,[3] but is now exclusively operated by Toys "R" Us Inc.[4]

History[edit]

Early History (by topic)[edit]

FAO Schwarz was founded in 1862 under the name “Toy Bazaar” by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz, in Baltimore, where he and his brothers retailed toys from a fancy-goods store. Additional locations of “Toy Bazaar” followed in Philadelphia and Boston.

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." [5]

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." [6] In 1896, Schwarz proclaimed the store as the "Original Santa Claus Headquarters" in New York.[7] Further, the FAO Schwarz holiday catalog is still published annually since 1876.[8][9]

In 1889, Schwarz added his initials to newspaper advertisements, branding the store at that time as simply "F.A.O. Schwarz," although the "Toy Bazaar" identifier continued until the move in 1897 to W. 23rd Street.[5]

In 1931, the New York City location moved to 745 Fifth Avenue where it operated for 55 years.

In 1963, when the Schwarz family sold their last shares in the business, FAO Schwarz went through a series of owners beginning with Parents Magazine. The company was subsequently sold to W.R. Grace in 1970, and then to toy retailer Franz Carl Weber of Zurich, Switzerland, in 1974. 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 its current location in the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street. FAO Schwarz was sold to Netherlands-based NV Koninklijke Bijenkorf Beheer (later renamed Vendex/KBB) in 1990. Throughout the 1990s, new FAO Schwarz stores opened throughout the United States and by 2000 the company had 40 locations.[10]

Early history (chronological)[edit]

  1. 1862 – FAO Schwarz was founded under the name “Toy Bazaar” by German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz, in Baltimore, where he and his brothers retailed toys from a fancy-goods store. Additional locations of “Toy Bazaar” followed in Philadelphia and Boston.
  2. 1869 – 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." [6]
  3. 1870 – Schwarz opened a New York City location known as the "Schwarz Toy Bazaar" at 765 Broadway.
  4. 1880 – The store moved to 42 E. 14th Street in Union Square and operated at that location until April 28, 1897.
  5. 1889 – Schwarz added his initials to newspaper advertisements, branding the store at that time as simply "F.A.O. Schwarz," although the "Toy Bazaar" identifier continued until the move in 1897 to W. 23rd Street.[5]
  6. 1896 – Schwarz proclaimed the store as the "Original Santa Claus Headquarters" in New York.[7] Further, the FAO Schwarz holiday catalog is still published annually since 1876.[11][9]
  7. 1897 – The store took over and moved to 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." [5]
  8. 1931 – The New York City location moved to 745 Fifth Avenue where it operated for 55 years.
  9. 1963 – When the Schwarz family sold their last shares in the business, FAO Schwarz went through a series of owners beginning with Parents Magazine.
  10. 1970 – The company was subsequently sold to W.R. Grace.
  11. 1974 – Sold to toy retailer Franz Carl Weber of Zurich, Switzerland.
  12. 1985 – Christiana Companies, a San Diego, California based company, owned FAO Schwarz for just one year.
  13. 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 its current location in the General Motors Building at 767 Fifth Avenue at 58th Street.
  14. 1990 – FAO Schwarz was sold to Netherlands-based NV Koninklijke Bijenkorf Beheer (later renamed Vendex/KBB). Throughout the 1990s, new FAO Schwarz stores opened throughout the United States and by 2000 the company had 40 locations.[10]

Right start, FAO Inc. and bankruptcy[edit]

In 2001, Right Start, Inc. purchased 23 of the 42 stores from Vendex, including the famed FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue flagship store. The other 18 unsold locations were immediately closed.[12] In 2002, Right Start Inc. changed its corporate name to FAO Inc. operating stores under The Right Start, Zany Brainy and FAO Schwarz names.[13] In January 2003, FAO Inc. filed for bankruptcy,[14] yet emerged from bankruptcy in April 2003. The company filed for bankruptcy a second time in December 2003.[15] The Fifth Avenue store was closed in January 2004.[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 and currently operates the retailer’s flagship store as well as its e-commerce site, FAO.com.[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]

Brand[edit]

FAO Schwarz is known for its large assortment of plush animals and the famous BIG Piano Dance Mat, a smaller replica of the in-store piano featured in the Tom Hanks film Big.[9] FAO Schwarz also features limited-quantity luxury items including a $1,500 Jeweled Classic Etch-A-Sketch[22] and a Barbie Foosball Table by Bonzini priced at $25,000.[9]

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 Mamas & Papas, one of the UK’s top nursery brands.

[edit]

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.[23] In 2010, the FAO Schwarz logo was redesigned in colors of red and silver. The logo emphasizes "F.A.O." the initials of company founder, Frederick August Otto Schwarz.[24] The logo also debuted a company mascot, “Wit.”[23]

New York City flagship store[edit]

The FAO Schwarz flagship store, located in the General Motors Building at Fifth Avenue and 58th Street in Manhattan, is currently the brand’s only store location. The store includes a concierge and "Personal Shoppers" to help customers find presents, in addition to a notable selection of toys, games, books and displays.[25]

In 2001, the store was redesigned by architect David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group in collaboration with Paul Gregory of Focus Lighting. The FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue flagship store now features a Grand Hall entrance and award-winning lighting that includes almost 80,000 LED lights mounted on the ceiling above the main atrium space. Each LED light is individually addressable and creates a dynamic light show.[26]

Feature shops[edit]

FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue contains many unique in-store features offering interactive experiences and customizable toys. The Muppet Whatnot Workshop debuted at FAO Schwarz in 2008 and allows customers the ability to create their very own Muppet by choosing from a selection of bodies and facial features, hair pieces and outfits.[27] The “Style by Me Barbie," "Madame Alexander Doll Factory," and "The Middleton Doll Newborn Nursery" allow customers to customize unique dolls by choosing hair style and color, skin tone, eye color and outfits from a large selection available in store.[28]

FAO Schweetz and FAO Café[edit]

Since 1996, FAO Schweetz offers hundreds of types of candy from bears, worms and fruit to classic candies like Jawbreakers and Whoppers, as well as assortments of chocolate and fudge. Visitors can customize orders at the shop.[28] In 2011, the store expanded its FAO Schweetz candy department to encompass 6,000 square feet on Level One of the FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue flagship store. The department was completely redesigned, featuring new floors, displays and treats along with oversized pieces of candy, including chocolate bars and peppermints.[1]

In October 2010, FAO Café debuted inside the store’s 58th Street entrance offering a variety of foods from several of New York City eateries like Crumbs Bake Shop, Jumbo Bagels, Doughnut Plant, Sigmund Pretzel Shop, and Peanut Butter and Co.[29]

In popular culture[edit]

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 floor piano.[10]

In 1995, the toy 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.[30]

In 2011, the FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue store was featured in The Smurfs during an "action-packed" chase scene in which the Smurfs encounter the evil wizard Gargamel.[31] In May 2011, scenes from the movie were shot all night over five nights at FAO Schwarz Fifth Avenue.[32]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "FAO Schwarz: 150 Years of Toys". 
  2. ^ "Toys 'R' Us has big plans for luxe retailer FAO Schwarz". 
  3. ^ United States Patent and Trademark Office. "Trademark Status & Document Retrieval: Serial Number 78759620". Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  4. ^ "Toys R Us Acquires High-end FAO Schwarz". 
  5. ^ a b c d "To Move Up-Town," New York Times; April 28, 1897; page 3.
  6. ^ a b Display Ad," New York Times; November 11, 1883; page 15.
  7. ^ a b Display Ad," New York Times; November 26, 1896; page 3.
  8. ^ "CELEBRATING A STORIED HERITAGE AND CREATING NEW TRADITIONS TO DELIGHT CHILDREN EVERYWHERE, FAO SCHWARZ ANNOUNCES ITS EXTRAORDINARY OFFERINGS FOR HOLIDAY 2009". 
  9. ^ a b c d "BUILDING ON ITS STORIED HISTORY, FAO SCHWARZ® EMBARKS UPON THENEXT EVOLUTION OF ITS BRAND, DESIGNED TO CREATE ENCHANTING MEMORIES FOR A NEW GENERATION OF KIDS". 
  10. ^ a b c "FAO Schwarz – Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on FAO Schwarz". 
  11. ^ "CELEBRATING A STORIED HERITAGE AND CREATING NEW TRADITIONS TO DELIGHT CHILDREN EVERYWHERE, FAO SCHWARZ ANNOUNCES ITS EXTRAORDINARY OFFERINGS FOR HOLIDAY 2009". 
  12. ^ Goldman, Abigail (2001-11-20). "Right Start Plans to Buy FAO Schwarz". Los Angeles Times. 
  13. ^ "The Right Start buys FAO Schwarz". 
  14. ^ "FAO Seeks Bankruptcy Protection". The New York Times. 2003-01-14. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  15. ^ Hays, Constance L. (2003-12-03). "FAO to File for Bankruptcy And Break Up Toy Empire". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  16. ^ Day, Sherri (2004-01-27). "F.A.O. Schwarz Closes, Disappointing Visitors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 
  17. ^ "Turnaround Firm Buys FAO for $41M". 
  18. ^ "Famous toy store to reopen". USA Today. 2004-11-23. 
  19. ^ "FAO Schwarz Buys Best & Co.". 
  20. ^ "Toys "R" Us Acquires FAO Schwarz, Fifth Avenue Store". Bloomberg. 2009-05-28. Retrieved 2009-05-28. 
  21. ^ "FAO Schwarz delivers new branding to its stores and web site". 
  22. ^ "FAO SCHWARZ® UNWRAPS MAGICAL HOLIDAY SHOPPING EXPERIENCE WITH EXTRAORDINARY PLAYTHINGS AND THE 2011 ULTIMATE HOLIDAY COLLECTION CATALOG". 
  23. ^ a b "FAO Schwarz Evolving, Rebranding". 
  24. ^ "FAO Redesigns Brand with New Logo, Packaging". 
  25. ^ "FAO Schwarz – New York City". 
  26. ^ "FAO Schwarz". 
  27. ^ "A Muppet Entirely Your Own". The New York Times. 2008-12-01. 
  28. ^ a b "FAO Schwarz® Fifth Avenue: Feature Shops, Attractions and Services". 
  29. ^ "FAO Schwarz debuts a café featuring NYC foods". 
  30. ^ "New York Tours visiting FAO Schwarz: Explore New York City through its famous TV & movie locations!". 
  31. ^ "FAO Schwarz Gets Smurftastic Makeover, Celebrating Appearance in Smurf Film". 
  32. ^ "THE SMURFS: Production Notes". 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°45′48″N 73°58′20″W / 40.7634°N 73.9723°W / 40.7634; -73.9723