FAO Schwarz returns to the Big Apple this week, three years after closing its landmark Fifth Avenue store, offering holiday shoppers an experience they can't get online, including a new twist on the big floor piano that Tom Hanks danced on in the movie "Big."
Creating a bigger-than-life, "experiential" feel at physical stores is "probably the biggest buzzword in retail," said David Conn, CEO of ThreeSixty Brands, whose parent company, ThreeSixty Group, bought FAO Schwarz in 2016.
"We joke that we have a brand that is 150 years old and was 'experiential' before it was cool," Conn told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. His retail pedigree includes roles as CEO of True Religion Brand Jeans and president of licensed brands at VF Corp., the company behind The North Face, Timberland and Wrangler.
The new FAO Schwarz megastore, located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, opens Friday with everything from live in-store magic shows to stations where custom remote-control cars can be made.
"We have a baby doll adoption center" as well, where kids will be "interviewed by our employees dressed as nurses and doctors just to make sure they're 'fit parents,'" Conn said. "A lot of the products are exclusive and can't be found anywhere else. And therefore, we can charge somewhat of a premium for those."
ThreeSixty Group, whose portfolio also includes Sharper Image and Discovery Kids, purchased FAO Schwarz for an undisclosed amount about two years ago from struggling Toys "R" Us, which closed the Fifth Avenue location in 2015.
However, some of the old favorites are coming over to the new flagship store, including a version of the colossal clock tower.
"And of course, it's FAO Schwarz, so we have the big dance-on piano. But this time, not just on the floor, it's also on the ceiling above," Conn added. "We wanted the people who are standing in the plaza to see people dance and see the keys lighting up."
The new FAO Schwarz also plans to set up a permanent presence in Canada and China and open pop-up shops in Spain, Australia and London.
— CNBC's Lauren Thomas contributed to this report.