Once outside, Michael raised his arm and called, "Taxi!" assuming one got groceries the same way as in New York.
The boy's response typified why Mr. Harris, 50, the new president-CEO at computer games marketer Accolade, and wife Jan decided the Big Apple was no place to raise a family. After researching communities for a good "quality of life" for kids, they settled on the tony town about halfway between San Francisco and Accolade's base of San Jose.
Voluble, energetic and an overgrown kid at heart, Mr. Harris should fit in well at Accolade, which uses "Games with personality" as its advertising tagline.
His style and promotional skills helped turn around F.A.O. Schwarz. During his regime, the 132-year-old toy store chain was identified with "experiential retailing" and its New York showroom was featured in the movie "Big," starring Tom Hanks.
"We never thought of F.A.O. as a commodity seller of toys," Mr. Harris says. "We were really in the experience business-interactive, with a unique product and a high level of unique services. We wanted people to take home what was wonderful."
He thinks that experience can be transplanted to Accolade, which had $45 million in sales but a small loss last fiscal year. He joined Accolade's board 17 months ago.
Mr. Harris will drive marketing and leadership, leaving technology to founder and Chairman Alan Miller, whom Mr. Harris succeeds as president-CEO.
After leaving F.A.O. Schwarz in 1992, Mr. Harris sought business opportunities that "would be good for children," looking for new interactive family entertainment.
"I wanted to focus on products with learning content," he says. Mr. Harris targets the under-12 market as "a sadly undersupported niche but one I understand fairly well," and the female market.
The company will continue making games available for personal computers "as a way to approach the younger market and have it be acceptable to parents, too." But Accolade's big bet is on games for the next generation of machines from Sony Corp. of America, Sega of America and Nintendo of America, due within two years.
While Accolade may not need to reinvent itself, Mr. Harris will question every aspect of the company, from its slogan to its Sport Accolade sub-brand, which includes titles like Barkley: Shut Up & Jam!, Brett Hull Hockey, Pele! (soccer), Unnecessary Roughness (football) and Hard Ball III (baseball).
The company is also evaluating its nine-year relationship with ad agency Darien & Kilberg, which recently relocated to San Francisco. A company spokeswoman said the Accolade may want to do TV advertising and wants to determine whether Darien can handle that.
Mr. Harris' first job out of college was with Gemco Department Stores, a now-defunct West Coast mass merchandiser.
"I thought retailing would be a good training ground," he recalls. "Two weeks into it, I got hooked and loved it." While Accolade isn't retail, Mr. Harris gives every sign of already being hooked again.