Our 2011 Road Trip #20: Welcome to Our World of Toys

Anne + Lego Harrison Ford!

As a lifelong fan of Harrison Ford, Anne accepts that Lego Indiana Jones is the closest she’ll ever come to meeting the real deal. But she can dream.

[The very special miniseries continues! See Part One for the official intro and context.]

When you bring a kid or two with you on vacation, assuming you don’t secretly hate them, and assuming you’re not one of those negligent parents who needs to learn a special life lesson about how not to be a selfish jerk, then it follows that your itinerary should have some stops that the kid will enjoy more than you do. And if you should happen to find something interesting about those stops for yourself, then hey, everyone wins.

Thus our family set forth on the trail of the last remaining FAO Schwarz in America. If nothing else, it would make a nice bookend with our visit to the Times Square Toys R Us.


Getting this out of the way: yep. like at TRU, there’s a big Barbie section.

Once upon a time, FAO Schwarz had more than just the one big store. In fact, when they arrived in downtown Indianapolis in 1995 as one of the first stores in the newly constructed Circle Centre Mall, I applied and interviewed for a management position at a time when I was less than thrilled with how my longtime restaurant job was going, to say nothing of my life in general. A few weeks later they left me a message to call them back, but I chickened out and never did. To this day I have no idea if the interview went that well or if personable courtesy rejections were their specialty.

It’s just as well because their Indy location shut down after a few years, possibly due to laughable overpricing. Perhaps I could’ve made a difference in their fate if only I’d picked up the phone, accepted the challenge, and made them see reason. Alas, we may never know.

The prices at their Manhattan location were consistent with my memories of the Indy location, so window shopping was the order of the day for us. To their credit, as famous NYC stores go, FAO was more of a curious draw to our geek sensibilities than Saks, Macy’s, and the other high-end stores that the high-end ladies love.

Lego Jack Sparrow!

Giant-sized Lego Cap’n Jack Sparrow, proud that his recent fourth outing was slightly less terrible than the third one.

Lego Indiana Jones!

Someone who doesn’t know how to negotiate threw Lego Indy both the idol and the whip.

Big Piano!

The real reason we came: Anne wanted to try her hand at tapping “Heart and Soul” on the giant floor piano like in the movie Big, but sounded less like Hoagy Carmichael and more like Huey Lewis.

Captain America!

Captain America poses for photo ops with children who wouldn’t recognize him till his new movie came out the following week. Not a single Matt Salinger fan among the bunch.

We thought it odd that some of their shelves bore merchandise with Toys R Us stickers. Wikipedia later revealed to us that TRU had bought the tattered remains of the once-mighty FAO in 2009. They still have a Web presence, but as far as presenting a tactile presence to children, this very store was it.

TRU Green Lantern!

Heh. Yikes. How ’bout that movie, huh?

Bunny Puppet!

Me pitching my spec script for the very necessary Godzilla vs. Peter Cottontail.

Bunny v Turtle!

…or, failing that, Gamera vs. Peter Cottontail.

FAO Security!

Toy soldier on duty. Guarding Manhattan’s second-best toy store is Serious Business.

To be continued!

[Historical notes:

1. 1. We were sad to hear the sole surviving FAO Schwarz closed its doors forever in July 2015, five months before TRU shut down their Times Square location. As of July 2016 the former FAO location still appeared abandoned when we rode by on the bus. Their online presence is now limited to a page in the “Specialty Toys” section of TRU’s own site.

2. I like to think the toy soldier one day grew up to become John Oliver. Who knows.

3. Seriously: that Green Lantern movie? What were they thinking? Five years later, we’re no closer to any rational answers.]

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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