Iconic Toy Store FAO Schwarz Closes 5th Avenue Doors
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Today for the last time, soldiers - toy soldiers - opened the doors of a New York City icon.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you ready to do it one more time?
MAN: Guys, come on in. Welcome to FAO.
SIEGEL: People young and old streamed into FAO - FAO Schwarz, a store very often referred to as FAO Schwarts (ph). It's closing its doors today after almost 30 years in its current location on New York's Fifth Avenue. Rising rents are to blame. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang spoke to some of its last visitors.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: They came from as far as California, Denmark and even Thailand.
SCOTT STUFFLEBEAM: FAO Schwarz actually has been one of the places I've always wanted to see since I was a kid. I'm quite sad that it's closing the first day we come here (laughter), but at least we get a chance to see it.
WANG: Forty-five-year-old Scott Stufflebeam of Bangkok flew into New York last night, and he made the toy store his first stop on his vacation with his wife and 15-year-old daughter, Alyssa.
WANG: Is he more excited than you are to go in?
ALYSSA STUFFLEBEAM: A lot more excited.
ALYSSA: I never saw a toy store this big. It looks pretty exciting.
WANG: If you've never been inside FAO Schwarz, you've probably seen it in the movies, like the 1988 film, "Big," with Tom Hanks.
He ends up dancing on a giant foot piano in the toy store.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BIG")
WANG: On its last day on Fifth Avenue, the big piano had plenty of eager players.
There's a line of parents here holding up their phones, taking pictures of children jumping on the piano.
This is the kind of toy store where you can bring home a life-size plush pony for about $950. Hello Kitty bags and dollhouses were marked for clearance. Still, some visitors came more for the memories than sales.
GEORGE WIBECAN: Years ago, they had a fabulous electric train - I mean really beautiful set ups. It was just a thrill to go through, and then to relive it with your children.
WANG: George Wibecan lived in New York for a few years before moving to France. He came out of the store today with a bag full of candy for a friend.
WIBECAN: And I'm sorry to see it closing. I had many, many happy times here with my own children, but, things move on.
WANG: Ten-year-old Tulsi Parikh of Houston left the store empty-handed.
TULSI PARIKH: I didn't buy anything. I liked some of the stuff but it was pretty pricey, so, yeah.
WANG: Those prices usually can't beat the deals you can find online. That's where Tulsi's mother, Ami, usually shops. But, she says...
AMI PARIKH: This is more fun. This is where you get to touch and feel everything. The little magic trick and the plane and - you can't do that anywhere else.
WANG: Toy lovers, though, won't have to mourn forever. The store's owner, Toys R Us, says FAO Schwarz will reopen in a new location in Manhattan with cheaper rent and enough space for the giant foot piano. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News, New York.
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