WOW. That’s all I have to say. Actually there is a lot more to say. Going into the city the other day, I was kinda skeptical of what I was going to be doing. I was dropped off, by bus, into the most consumer-based part of the city, probably even the east coast, or even the country, on the most consumer-driven weekend of the year, with three women. After going to a plethora of stores that I really didn’t want to spend as much time in as we did, but were interesting nonetheless, we walked about sixteen blocks, to the corner of 58th St. and 5th Ave. The FAO Schwarz Store. It was packed. A little more packed than I bargained for. So packed, if fact, that there was a line that went halfway down the block, just to get in, guarded by employees dressed like toy soldiers. They said it was going to be a 20-25 minute wait to get in, and I grumbled as we got in line. Even though we didn’t really have anything to do for the rest of the day, I was wondering if it was worth a wait like that. Yes. It was. In fact, it took little more than 10 minutes to get into the store, which was remarkable considering the length of the line.
Inside we found three floors that just kept going and going. First floor had stuffed animals. Any kind. Lifesized elephants and giraffes, cows and hippos. They also had smaller sized stuffed animals, like lifesized german sheperds. It also housed a vintage toy collection, and a glass case with extravant upgrades of old favorites, such as a gold slinky and gem studded Mickey Mouse-headed Pez dispensers. There was also a candy section, complete with gummi pythons (over 3 feet of gummi), and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.
Downstairs was home to puzzle toys, action figures, video games, something called the Street Surfboard or thereabouts, and pretty much anything that you could have stations set up to demonstrate. They had an expert teaching kids the skateboard thing, a guy who could solve a rubik’s cube in under one minute and thirty seconds (to brag a bit, about 5 years ago, I could solve it in about that time, but he was a bit more personable with the people than I could ever be, and he was obviously more skilled than I could ever be), and all kinds of other fun stuff. It did kinda get me angry when the rich mother in her fur coat was asking her 5 year old son which 3,000 dollar Star Wars collectable ship model he wanted(a similar one), maybe not realizing that he was totally gonna treat it like a 40 dollar toy and not a 3,000 piece of art.
Going up to the third floor, I was blown away by the amount of stuff once again. There were the guys doing the show on the floor piano, a ridiculous doll section, with men (it is NY) sewing doll clothes and using some mini bedazzler to put sequins on them. There was a case with all these old school-looking barbie dolls, that actually smelled like the flavor associated with the color of their dress. As you kept walking, there was this glass encased platform about 8 feet high, where, if you were younger than 8, and presumably a girl, you could go and dance with a woman who was made up to be a princess of some sort. Not that I’m an eight-year-old girl and was really into this, but the amount of effort that went into this section of the store was amazing. Around the corner was the boys section, filled with an erea where you could design your own hot wheels car. There was some VR type thing, more car-related toys, and some completely drivable mini cars, ranging from a $12,000 mini-one seater audi to a $40,000, two seater, 7 foot long, mini hummer-type vehicle< , with an all-weather fiberglass body with a protective frame, rack-and-pinion steering, dual hydraulic disk brakes, a manual emergency brake, full front and rear suspension, and a three-speed transmission. You can buy one online here, if you like. There was also rare toy room where people could buy and sell really old collectible toys. Again, most were really expensive.
And even when we were walking out we passed whole sections on the top floor that we hadn’t seen before, and there were just so many people out doing demonstrations of toys, inventors of toys there to sign them, and people there just to get the kids involved.
All in all, the store did an incredible job of providing an experience that a kid would never forget, getting them to not only say, “I want this”, but creating a bond between the kid and the toy to make them want it even more. It was at least five times as impressive as the Times Square Toys R Us, which I think was about five stories tall, and there was plenty to see and do, enough that it would take at least an hour and a half just to see everything there, without actually spending time to take it all in. The only downside was that it was so crowded with kids, but what else would you expect?
The NYC FAO Schwarz Store gets five stars due to the vast amount of things to see and do, the incredible amount of effort put into selling toys and creating an experience that children won’t forget, and along with that, an incredibly successful way to sell toys. The only negative aspect was the incredible amount of people there, but that could hardly be deemed the store’s fault, and they did an admirable job of keeping the amount of people reasonably under control with the line system. Well worth the short wait to get in.