After 145 years, toy emporium FAO Schwarz closes
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After 145 years, toy emporium FAO Schwarz closes

Iconic store, where Tom Hanks famously danced on the floor piano in ‘Big,’ was founded by Jewish-German immigrant

In this Nov. 10, 2003 file photo, customers pass a statue of a teddy bear and a doorman dressed as a toy soldier as they enter the FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in New York. The store is closing its doors for good on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, though it may reopen elsewhere in midtown Manhattan. (AP Photo/Rich Kareckas, File)
In this Nov. 10, 2003 file photo, customers pass a statue of a teddy bear and a doorman dressed as a toy soldier as they enter the FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue in New York. The store is closing its doors for good on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, though it may reopen elsewhere in midtown Manhattan. (AP Photo/Rich Kareckas, File)

Tom Hanks danced on a large floor piano there in the movie “Big.” Multitudes of children wandered through the aisles over the years, hopped up on sugar from the candy store and wide-eyed with delight at the giant stuffed animals and other toys. And a fair number of parents winced at some of the price tags.

FAO Schwarz on Fifth Avenue, probably the best-known toy store in the world, closed Wednesday night.

According to the Leo Baeck Institute, the founder of the store — Frederick August Otto Schwarz — was a “Jewish immigrant to the United States from Herford (Westphalia), Germany, in 1862.”

Owner Toys R Us announced the decision in May, citing the high and rising costs of running the 45,000-square-foot retail space on the pricey avenue. Though the flagship store is closing its doors for good, it may reopen elsewhere in midtown Manhattan.

“It’s the end of an era, it sucks. It’s a great store so it should probably remain in its original home,” said Flo Marinez, who, as a teenager, once had a sleepover inside the store.

FAO Schwarz says it is the oldest toy store in the US, with a New York City location since 1870. Reported celeb sightings — Kim Kardashian and Kanye West before they were parents; moms Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham — have helped fuel the fantasy since the flagship store opened in 1986. Nick Jonas stopped by and hopped around The Big Piano in December while singing “Jealous.”

But generations of ordinary families have also reveled in three levels of toys and candy.

Scott Wolfson from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, remembers coming to FAO Schwarz as a kid and today brought his own son to see the iconic store.

“To see it through his eyes, from his perspective, it brought a whole new meaning to me,” Wolfson said.

The Manhattan landmark included a candy store, personal shoppers and three levels of specialty toy departments.

“The baby department at FAO Schwarz is the ultimate destination when luxury shopping for little ones,” the store’s online fact sheet advised.

When those babies reached “tweenhood,” they’d need specialty skin care products: “It’s never too early to start protecting one’s natural beauty!”

Toys R Us of Wayne, New Jersey, has been privately held since 2005. It bought the FAO Schwarz brand in 2009.

Michael Vartanian, who’s shopped at the store for years, said other stores can’t replicate the FAO Schwarz experience.

“It doesn’t have the same feel, and the same as the name FAO Schwarz. It’s a name, it’s an icon,” he said.

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