In order to find out when FAO Schwarz was established, you have to go into the rich history of this toy retailer, which traces its journey from Baltimore to New York … and various other parts of the world.
Based in New York City, FAO Schwarz is one of the most famous toy retailers of the world. Not just that, it also boasts of being the oldest operating toy retailer in North America. While nobody would need an introduction to this toy retailer, not many people can actually boast of knowing of old it is, when it was established, or who started it for that matter. In order to answer these and other such questions about FAO Schwarz, you need to go back to 1862, which is where it all started.
Toy Bazaar: Baltimore, Maryland
The rich history of this toy retailer is as interesting as the amazing toys that it has to offer. It was established in the United States in 1862. It was founded by Frederick August Otto Schwarz, a German immigrant, in Baltimore, Maryland. At the time of its inauguration, Schwarz and his brothers named their fancy retail outlet the ‘Toy Bazaar’.
Eventually, new branches of the Toy Bazaar were opened in Philadelphia and Boston. 1870 marked its debut in New York City as the ‘Schwarz Toy Bazaar’. A decade later, they moved to a new location in the New York City: 42 E. 14th Street in the Union Square. Amidst all this, in 1876, they also issued their first catalog for loyal clientele. The beautiful catalogs that followed and a website added to its reputation and soon enough, FAO Schwarz became a toy retailer of international repute.
Schwarz Toy Bazaar: New York City
Eventually, they started a practice of holding an exhibition at the Schwarz Toy Bazaar in the month of November which became widely popular with time. The appearance of Santa Claus, which was an added attraction for Christmas season, also played an important role in making it popular. In fact, they even promoted the store with a tag line saying ‘Original Santa Claus Headquarters’ in New York.
On April 28, 1897, they relocated to 39 and 41, West 23rd Street, and became the largest toy dealer in New York. It was at this point of time that the store became more popular as F.A.O. Schwarz, with F.A.O. referring to the initials of its founder Frederick August Otto Schwarz. Though newspaper ads as early as in 1889 had the initials featuring in them, it was branded FAO Schwarz only after the outlet was shifted to this new place. 1931 witnessed yet another relocation; this time to the 58th Street and Fifth Avenue.
Expansion over the Years
In the mid-20th century, FAO Schwarz became popular as an ‘entertainment retail’ wherein the store in itself was an experience for its customers. The decades of 60s and 70s were marked by expansion of business. In 1963, Schwarz sold toy retail business to Parents magazine. In 1970, the Parents magazine sold it to W. R. Grace, who, in turn, sold it to Franz Carl Weber International―a toy retailer from Zurich, Switzerland, in 1974.
In 1986, it was sold to the Christiana Companies, after which it was bought by Peter Harris―the CEO of Christina Companies, and Peter C. Morse―an investor. In 1986, it was again relocated, this time to its current location in the General Motors Building. In 1990, NV Koninklijke Bijenkorf Beheer, a Dutch retail group, bought FAO Schwarz and expanded it by a significant extent. Under KBB, 42 stores were opened across the United States within a decade.
So FAO Schwarz has been in business for more than a century now, and its reputation has only increased with time. Such is the craze of this brand that its stores are now considered places of tourist attraction. The Big Piano, a large floor piano on which you can take a stroll in the New York FAO store, is one of the numerous attractions associated with this brand. If you happen to visit New York any time, a stroll on this piano is something that you cannot afford to miss.