Reuters

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FAO Schwarz, one of the world's most famous and iconic toy stores, is going the way of the Dodo bird today, closing its doors on Fifth Avenue Wednesday.

The store, which is owned by Toys "R" Us Inc., may reopen next year, officials say, but that is little comfort for those who keep track of the vanishing New York of yore.

High rent and competition from online toy retailers are among the factors cited in the closing.

The store, which was originally on East 14th Street when it first opened in 1880, was already famous when actor Tom Hanks and the film "Big" made its Fifth Ave. location a tourist mecca when hedanced on a giant light-up piano.

Columbia Business School professor Rita Gunther McGrath recently wrote in Fortune magazine that the store didn't have to die.

"I would argue it is a result of the retailer clinging for far too long to a losing business model, when one that could have saved it was just down the street," she wrote.

"A few blocks away ... you will find the American Girl Place. The store, which always seems to be packed when I pass by, is testament to how powerful (and profitable) the creation of must-have experiences can be," she continued.

The professor noted that kid parties are held there, and girls bring their dolls to get haircuts and new accessories. There's even a doll hospital.

FAO simply did not change with the times, she said.

FAO declared bankruptcy in 2003. In 2009, after the shuttering of the Las Vegas location, there was just one, in Manhattan.

Now there are none.

John A. Oswald is editor-at-large at Metro and can be found on Twitter @nyc_oz.
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