Just six years after arriving in America from Westphalia, Germany, Frederick August Otto (FAO) Schwarz opened his first toyshop in Baltimore, MD, before relocating to New York City in 1970. Specializing in hard-to-find toys from Europe, the New York store, originally located on Broadway, quickly became a much talked about destination. Over the years, the store progressively moved uptown, finally settling into its current location at Fifth Avenue at 58th Street in 1986, where it became one of the city's largest tourist attractions. A second Las Vegas store made its debut in August 1997 at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace. At its height, the chain boasted a total of 40 stores throughout the U.S.
However, things took a turn for the worse in 2001 when FAO Schwarz parent company The Right Start Company bought 22 of the 40 stores, and the other 18 unsold stores immediately closed. The following
Both FAO Schwarz stores have been redesigned with the collaboration of the Rockwell Group. Among the New York store's highlights are floor-to-ceiling windows on the first floor, which allow for spectacular views of Fifth Avenue and 58th Street, as well as an LED grid covering the ceiling. Its 20,000-plus lights can be individually programmed to create a range of color and pattern effects. In keeping with the ancient theme of The Forum Shops, the Las Vegas store features a gigantic, animatronic Trojan horse that greets customers at the entrance. At 48 feet, it rises the full three levels of the shop.
What's in Store In-Store?
3-D Motion Simulator: This aviation-quality 3-D motion simulator seats eight and is driven by CD-ROM. Adventures change daily and include experiences such as a trip to space, a slot car race, and an adventure in a glacier. The simulator features a fully digital audio/visual system and ergonomic styling. Rides are available in the store for $7. Or, have one at home for $300,000.
Madame Alexander Doll Factory: Customized dolls ($45 each) are created on the spot as customers watch. Young customers can choose the skin tone, eye color, and hair color and style.
Hot Wheels Factory: Young car enthusiasts can customize their Hot Wheels car in one of the seven Hot Wheels kiosks, including car type, color, wheels, and engine; $22 each.
Dance-on Piano: Customers can dance on the piano to create their own sounds or watch the professional dance team perform regularly throughout the day. The piano also is available for purchase for $250,000.
FAO Schweetz: This classic ice cream parlor features super-premium ice cream creations and fine pastries.
Characters: FAO boast a range of exclusive characters, the most famous of which are The Toy Soldier, The Princess, and The Colonel.
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