FAO Schwarz has been an American luxury toy store tradition since they first opened up in NYC in 1862. Their Fifth Ave. flagship store was the equivalent of Harrod's of London's toy department. Very up market and exclusive.
The went thru way too many owners since the last of the German Schwarz family finally sold out in 1963. Their current owner is closing the last of their 42 nationwide toy stores in July, not so much because of sales declines, but because of the increasingly high cost of doing business on Fifth Ave. in NYC. Their current owner is Toys R Us, which is looking for a new location in NYC. They do not want to eliminate the high brow toy brand name....http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2015/05/15/fao-schwarz-store-closing/27387753/
I remember visiting the store back in the 1980s, and their LEGO department was unparalleled in the USA. The store has been in several movies as well as being a NYC icon.
Here's a bit of history about the store....http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FAO_Schwarz
And there's a reason why FAO Schwarz was not just another toy store... as far as LEGO was concerned.... from 1962-72 it was one of the major USA toy stores that sold LEGO Exclusive sets. FAO Schwarz and Sears were the first toy store chains in the world that had LEGO exclusive sets... a tradition that carries on into the present.
Here is a 1970 FAO Schwarz mail-order catalog page.... all Samsonite LEGO... and even Samsonite table and chairs (non-LEGO)....
The LEGO Town Set at the top of this FAO Schwarz mail order page of 1970 is the very interesting 080 set... which was a set that merged LEGO Town System with the LEGO Train System. I don't recall any set that had this type of 2 complete systems in 1 set. The 080 set was only sold in continental Europe (not Britain, Ireland nor Australia).... and in the USA (not in Canada)... only at FAO Schwarz... known as the "Ambassador Set", with the 080 number (and Samsonite markings).
Besides the outside of the box, there were other subtle differences between the USA exclusive and the continental European basic set... such as the baseplates (USA version had all stud baseplates), and trees/bushes (USA version had the unpainted trees/bushes).
There is an entire chapter in my Unofficial LEGO Sets/Parts Collectors Guide that pictures and maps out well over 60 different and unusual exclusive LEGO sets... some in plain brown mailing boxes, others always in colorful boxes, and some that came either way... in-store (colorful) or mail-order (brown cardboard box).
Since FAO Schwarz was the premier exclusive American toy store, they always had top of the line colorful box LEGO sets, often with names that sounded exclusive... such as the "Suburban", "Governor", "Diplomat", "Adventure", "Discovery" or "Ambassador" set names.
More to come.... :)