FAO Schwarz closes flagship Manhattan store: the end of an era?

FAO Schwarz is closing the doors of its iconic Fifth Avenue store in New York Wednesday night.

Carlo Allegri/Reuters
People play on the 'Big Piano' inside the flagship FAO Schwarz, the oldest toy store in the United States, in the Manhattan borough New York May 28, 2015. Citing rising rent prices, the three-level, 45,000 square foot space will shut its doors at midnight Wednesday night. The store is a popular tourist destination and has made cameos in multiple movies, including Woody Allen's 1995 film 'Mighty Aphrodite' and the 1988 movie 'Big' starring Tom Hanks.

After a 75-year run on Fifth Avenue, FAO Schwarz’s iconic flagship store is closing its doors tonight. 

The self-proclaimed oldest toy store in the United States, founded in 1862, has had a New York location since 1870. During that time, the store has attracted A-list celebrity shoppers, provided holiday gifts for millions of children, and starred in Tom Hanks's 1988 cult classic "Big." 

Wednesday night marks the official end of those glory days. 

The decision was announced in May by owner Toys R Us, which cited the high and rising costs of running the 45,000-square-foot retail space on high-rent Fifth Avenue as the reason for closing. 

"You go into Tiffany's, you're not walking out without spending at least $100 or $200, because you're not going to find anything under that,” Jim Silver, editor in chief of toy-centric website, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's different when you're selling toys that cost $30, $50, or even $70. With that type of rent, it's almost impossible to break even."

Toys R Us has announced plans to reopen the store in another, less pricey Manhattan location sometime in the future. But there’s no guarantee that a new location would be more profitable. Toys R Us sales have been on the decline in recent years, and KB Toys, a staple of shopping malls all over the country, closed all stores in 2009 due to bankruptcy. 

Earlier this year, in an effort to beat the increasing competition from discount chains like Walmart and online retailers, Toys R Us introduced a new model for their stores to set themselves apart. The prototype store has expanded floor space devoted to play areas and new technology for children to interact with. 

“It has to be something where kids want to go and play,” CEO Antonio Urcelay told Bloomberg in March. “We have to reinforce that we are a specialist.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press. 

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