The “Big” piano / El “Big” piano

La versión en español está después de la versión en inglés.

If you’ve seen the 1988 film, “Big,” starring Tom Hanks, you’ll remember the musical scene with the big piano in the toy store. If not, there’s a video clip at bottom.

The store was FAO Schwarz, my favorite toy store and the oldest in the United States. It was first opened in Baltimore (as Toy Bazaar) in 1862 by Frederick August Otto Schwarz who then opened a store, called Schwarz Toy Bazaar, on Broadway in New York City in 1870.

I got to know the store from its Fifth Avenue location, across from the Plaza Hotel (where Dale and I would sit in the lobby and pretend we were waiting for someone). We never passed up a visit when we were out wandering. I remember her once buying a Ferrari (not a real one, a Matchbox car) for The Kid Brother. I’m not sure if KB still has his 60+ Matchbox cars.

In the past, many of the toys came from other countries and couldn’t be found in most places in the States. Before all the major toy store chains opened around the country, San Geraldo and I would buy our nephews toys from FAO Schwarz because we knew they wouldn’t have them in South Dakota.

Anyway, the company has gone through a number of owners over the years, including one corporation that went bankrupt (twice), and the Fifth Avenue store closed in 2015. I thought that was the end of that. But I didn’t know a new and phenomenal store opened three years later in Rockefeller Center. The company brand is the property of the descendants of the founder, who have a foundation to fund opportunities for young people to work in non-profits.

The store has always been known for it’s massive collection of stuffed animals and I always wanted the giraffe. I have new favorites. The 12 stuffed animal images are in thumbnails below. Click them if you want a closer look.


Si has visto la película de 1988, “Big”, protagonizada por Tom Hanks, recordarás la escena musical con el gran piano en la juguetería. Si no, hay un videoclip en la parte inferior.

La tienda era FAO Schwarz, mi juguetería favorita y la más antigua de Estados Unidos. Fue inaugurado por primera vez en Baltimore (como Toy Bazaar) en 1862 por Frederick August Otto Schwarz, quien luego abrió una tienda, llamada Schwarz Toy Bazaar, en Broadway en la ciudad de Nueva York en 1870.

Conocí la tienda por su ubicación en la Quinta Avenida, frente al Plaza Hotel (donde Dale y yo nos sentábamos en el recibidor y fingíamos que estábamos esperando a alguien). Nunca dejábamos pasar una visita cuando estábamos deambulando. La recuerdo una vez comprando un Ferrari (no uno real, un auto Matchbox) para El Hermanito. No estoy seguro de si KB todavía tiene sus más de 60 autos Matchbox.

En el pasado, muchos de los juguetes provenían de otros países y no se podían encontrar en la mayoría de los lugares de los Estados Unidos. Antes de que abrieran todas las principales cadenas de tiendas de juguetes en todo el país, San Geraldo y yo comprábamos juguetes para nuestros sobrinos de FAO Schwarz porque sabíamos que no los tendrían en Dakota del Sur.

De todos modos, la compañía ha pasado por varios propietarios a lo largo de los años, incluida una corporación que quebró (dos veces) y la tienda de Fifth Avenue cerró en 2015. Pensé que era el final de eso. Pero no sabía que se abrió una tienda nueva y fenomenal tres años después en el Rockefeller Center. La marca de la empresa es propiedad de los descendientes del fundador, quienes tienen una fundación para financiar oportunidades para que los jóvenes trabajen en organizaciones sin fines de lucro, aunque las tiendas son operadas por otra corporación.

La tienda siempre ha sido conocida por su enorme colección de animales de peluche y siempre quise la jirafa. Tengo nuevos favoritos. Las 12 imágenes de animales de peluche están en miniaturas a continuación. Haz clic en ellos si quieres verlos más de cerca.

• Available on ebay.
• Disponible en ebay.
• A smaller version than the one seen in “Big.” Rockefeller Plaza in the background.
• Una versión más pequeña que la que se ve en “Big”. Plaza Rockefeller al fondo.


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

24 thoughts on “The “Big” piano / El “Big” piano”

  1. Several things …
    I thought that was you in costume and fake beard in the top photo.
    I am not a toy person, but I remember being in FAO Schwarz every time we went to La Grand Apple and marveling at all that stuff.
    I, too, had a massive Matchbox car collection and have no idea whatever happened to it.

    1. Bob:
      That would be a fun costume. I wonder what I would look like with orange hair. I’ll have to ask KB about his Matchbox cars.

  2. Playing the duet ‘classics’…..Heart and Soul, and Chopsticks!!
    Looks like a great store to wander around.

    1. Jim:
      It was so much fun. Themed departments with demonstrations (like the magic show) going on everywhere. And staffers singing like Broadway stars.

    1. sillygirl:
      If she could have afforded it when she was in high school, Dale would have bought it for me.

  3. My memories of a huge toy store are tied to Hamley’s in London. Multiple floors right on Regent Street. Not only did I visit there as a child (couldn’t afford anything then), but over the years, I’ve bought toys there for my own children and now my grandchildren. In fact, my DD just passed down to her niece (also my grandchild) a large, beautifully made German doll I bought for her there in the early 1980s. A sweet gesture.

    Like KB and Bob, I also used to have a huge Matchbox collection. Like Bob, I have no idea where it went, but we moved a lot so imagine it was sacrificed along the way. My DH still has his collection and one of our grandsons pulls it out every time he comes over (I had to replace the original MB carrier as it was falling apart). I keep a roll out rug that has a city layout with roads and buildings. Many hours have found us on the floor playing cars–especially when he was here virtually schooling first grade in 2020-21.

    1. Mary:
      I’ve never been to Hamley’s. That might be worth a visit when we’re next in London. KB had two official Matchbox cases. The first held 12 cars, the second held 48. That’s how I know he had more than 60.

  4. One of my favorite movie scenes. Thanks for linking to it. The sense of magic inside the store is amazing. Toy”r” Us and stores of that ilk should just wither and die. Oh wait – I think Toy “r” Us did die.

  5. I had been in the original store years ago, and had fond memories. The new store by the looks of the pictures has lost some of it’s magic, and grandest. When I get to NYC, anymore, I try to avoid the Rockefeller Center area. To busy and commercial anymore So glad you got back home safe and sound toots.

    1. Mistress Borghese:
      The new store surprised me with its magic. It was still a very special place. However, it doesn’t have the open spaces and high celings. Still, it made me happy to see how well they captured the specialness of FAO Schwarz. And the new store has staffers that sing… and are clearly professional performers. Broadway is so close. I still love going back to Rockefeller Center. It was always commercial. But I have sweet memories of seeing the Christmas Tree every year from a very young age, seeing my face on TV in the windows of the RCA Building, watching the ice skating, and having lunch outside (I worked across the street for about 9 months).

  6. I visited FAO Schwartz several times in the old location. I remember they used to have gigantic clear tubes that circulated Barbie shoes floating in water. It was very bizarre. (Maybe they were lamps?)

    I love the hippo (and of course the giraffe). I always wonder, though, what would happen if we put the money and resources that went into making all the stuffed animals in the world into saving ACTUAL animals.

    1. Steve:
      Wow! I don’t remember the Barbie shoes. The hippo is one of my new favorites. Imagine if, at minimum, a percentage of the price of every stuffed animal sold at FAO Scwarz went to saving animals around the world.

    1. Sassybear:
      This new shop brings back some of the magic. But the store on Fifth was incredible. I have no old photos.

    1. Walt the Fourth:
      The goat was incredible. I wouldn’t mind having that. Did you notice the rainbow ribbon on the Toy Soldier guy?

  7. I had a few Matchbox cars, but Hot Wheels came along when I was in the first grade or so, and most kids saw those as being cooler, and not wanting to appear different from most kids, I saw them as cooler too.

    Matchbox and Hot Wheels, made by two different companies, were clearly competitors when I was a kid, but today I see they’re both owned by Mattel. It’s not something I’m much inclined to do anything about, but there must be an antitrust lawsuit in there somewhere.

    1. Kirk:
      The US government broke up AT&T in the ’70s, supposedly to break up the monopoly. Now, the world is nothing but monopolies.

      KB also had hot wheels, but not as many. His first love was Matchbox.

  8. How to get the giraffe on the plane home? I don’t have the box, but I have one of those little green cars. Most likely a Christmas gift from some time in the late 1960’s.

    1. David:
      I was tempted to buy the goat, too. I could have bought it a seat. We never kept the Matchbox boxes.

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