F.A.O. Schwarz, one of the oldest toy stores in the United States, is best known as the whimsical setting for the piano scene in the movie Big:
That piano, now, is no more. This week, citing the high cost of commercial real estate in New York City, F.A.O. Schwarz—“as much of a must on any tourist’s itinerary as Tiffany & Co. or Bergdorf Goodman” according to Fortune—closed the doors of its flagship store, across from The Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue. Schwarz continues its sales online, and there’s a chance, its current owner, Toys ‘R’ Us, has said, that it will open a brick-and-mortar operation in another, slightly cheaper, location. For now, though, that piano has been packed up. And so has, with it, Big’s easy symbolism: that the basic ideas toys represent—a sense of wonder, a sense of play, a sense that the world serves primarily as a backdrop for fun—can endure into adulthood. That childhood isn’t so much a stage as, yes, a state of mind.
But F.A.O. Schwarz, outside of Hollywood, didn’t simply sell stuffed animals and dolls and model trains and other such traditional tools of childhood. That Toys ‘R’ Us bought the legendary company, in 2009, represented something of a downgrade for Schwarz, and that was largely because “us” implies an inclusivity that ran counter to the Schwarz brand. The store, instead, was best known for bringing the tenets of the “luxury good” to the toy market—for selling what CNN once called, simply, “pricey toys for rich kids.”