FAO Schwarz's Return to Wonder

When iconic toy store FAO Schwarz closed in the summer of 2015, it’s safe to say that New York City was thrown into a state of sadness--the magic had finally come to an end. But fast forward three years, the beloved shop is reopening its doors with a new flagship location in Rockefeller Center that spans 2.5 levels. With over 20,000 feet of signature toys, interactive experiences, and shops, both parents and children are invited into a world of wonder where anything is possible. “We are bringing back the wonderment of toys and a deep nostalgia for the larger than life experience that FAO Schwarz has offered to parents and children alike for over 150 years,” David Conn, CEO of ThreeSixty Brands--owners of the FAO Schwarz brand--confirms.

Although the flagship location nods to the classic history of the brand (dating back to 1862), its design--created by Chute Gerdeman--takes a more modern route, with an emphasis on Art Deco culture and fashion. This contemporary shift is manifested when glancing at the toy soldiers stationed outside the store’s 49th street entrance, dressed in uniforms designed by supermodel Gigi Hadid. “ The new uniform, which will be worn at all FAO stores internationally, draws from Gigi’s own nostalgia of childhood visits to the toy store,” the brand writes in its official press release. “It also incorporates whimsical elements including a special ‘Medal of Honor’ worn on the left pocket adorned with the meaningful words "Celebrate, Wonder, Discover, Share, Together."

The new store location also marks the beginning of a new FAO Schwarz icon: the rocket ship. Visitors who enter FAO's doors are literally “transported into another world” when glancing at the 27-foot tall rocket ship, surrounded by teddy-bear astronauts sponsored by Build-A-Bear. However, guests at the 49th Street entrance are still greeted by the brand’s renowned three-story, three-dimensional clock tower, signifying the absence of time when engaging in the store’s world of wonder.

The famous FAO Schwarz dance-on piano sponsored by Hape also makes an updated return on the second floor of the flagship. The improved Piano is reflected on the ceiling above, and guests are able to overlook the ice-skating rink below at Rockefeller Plaza as they prance around the keys. Piano dancers are going to be performing shows there throughout the year as well, and they will teach visitors how to dance and play songs.

Photo Credit: Richard Cadan

A new addition to the store is the FAO Schwarz Baby Doll Adoption Experience, where nurses and doctors educate children about the adoption process and teach them how to care for a baby. After a parent adoption form is filled out, children choose a doll to receive a “checkup”and then take home their prized possession with a “certificate of adoption” to commemorate the special moment.

The brand is also reintroducing FAO Schweetz, a 2,150 square foot candy installation sponsored by candy retailer IT’SUGAR. Life-sized classic toys such as a toy train serve as candy containers while toy soldiers and a subway car are displayed at the checkout counter. Additionally, FAO Schweetz recently launched a new product line that includes giant gummy bears and unicorns, make-your-own gummy worm kits, mega chocolate bars, and more treats that are all sold at the flagship.

Other highlights of the store include Alex Spa, where guests are invited to get hair color/nail polish treatments; Build-A-Bear Workshop Make-Your-Own Experience, which includes a variety of stuffed animals to customize; Discovery #mindblown, a 520 square-foot kiosk where guests observe in-person science demonstrations; Hasbro’s More Than Meets the Eye Experience with Transformers, complete with a talking 9ft. 2in. Optimus Prime; and Marvin’s Magic, featuring live, close-up magic.

If you are in need of picking out the perfect holiday gift or simply want to receive a dose of positivity, FAO Schwarz is a must-visit during this holiday season. We could all use a little magic in our lives, and the brand’s new flagship store brings it closer to us than ever before.