Wide eyes and hopeful smiles abound as young shoppers gaze with wonder.
From dolls and dresses to books and beds, the American Girl store might just put Santa’s workshop to shame — at least as far as girls are concerned. The company opens its 15th and only Ohio retail location in Columbus this weekend at Easton Town Center. The store’s soft opening was Friday, June 21. The grand opening was Saturday, and that event continues today.
The store is expected to draw customers from a 250-mile radius.
And while the 11,500-square foot store has more doll accessories than you can imagine, it’s more than a store — it’s an experience.
“People spend one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half hours here, and there’s a reason for that,” said Wade Opland, vice president of retail for American Girl. “We help create moments that girls won’t forget.”
Here’s a look at what’s in store:
American Girl dolls are not one-size-fits-all — far from it.
The American Girl line began with three Historical Character dolls in 1986. There are currently 13 historical dolls on the market and several others that have been retired. They span hundreds of years from Kaya, a Native American whose story takes place in 1764, to free-spirited Julie in 1974.
American Girl annually creates a Girl of the Year. This year it’s Saige, who loves the arts and her horses with equal passion. Girl of the Year dolls are only available for one year.
Many girls choose to create a doll in their image – a My American Girl. There are more than 40 variations including skin tone, eye color, hair color and hairstyle available. Freckles, bangs, curls, green eyes or blue, there is a doll for you.
There are also Bitty Baby and Bitty Twins dolls, designed primarily for younger children.
Accessories and clothes
American Girl dolls can be a reflection of their young owners.
From flute and guitar sets to glasses and retainers, there are countless accessories to personalize the dolls, even crutches, casts and a hearing aid.
There’s a skateboard as well as snow skis, a camping set and a lemonade stand. There are hairstyling accessories from rollers to hair extensions and, even, a styling chair.
Bitty Babies might need a changing table or a Sip & Snack Cup.
Bathing suits, party dresses, athletic gear and historical outfits are all available. And “Dress Like Your Doll” clothing gives girls a chance to wear matching clothes.
From historical fiction to guidebooks designed to help girls navigate life’s challenges, there is a wide variety of American Girl books.
The historical characters each have a series of books and the Girl of the Year has a contemporary companion book.
“The Care and Keeping of You” and “The Care and Keeping of You 2” are both on the New York Times Bestsellers list for middle grades and the “Smart Girl’s Guide” series tackles topics from middle school to money.
“We really celebrate girls through the content of our books,” Opland said. “I know for my own daughter, these books really spurred her love of reading and what more could a parent want.”
If your doll is in need of a new do, stop in to the Doll Hair Salon for a braid or an updo. Specialized doll stylists will not only fix their hair, but also show their young owners how to do it themselves and give them a hair care card to help them care for their doll’s delicate locks.
Dolls can also get their ears pierced in the salon.
And at the “Creativi-tees” boutique, girls can design matching T-shirts for themselves and their dolls.
The Bistro has selections for young palates as well as those with more grown-up tastes.
Small plates include soft pretzel bites as well as warm artichoke-spinach dip. Chicken tenders, a turkey club, a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing and an Asian chicken salad are among the main courses. And, if there is room for dessert, the trio of mini ice cream cones and the sweet treat dessert sampler are kid favorites.
The Bistro also hosts birthday celebrations and special events.
“The Bistro is a perfect place for one of those mom-daughter moments,” Opland said. “It’s a place to relax and talk about what’s important to them.”
Make a day and night of it
A summer girls getaway American Girl style is easy to do at the Hilton Columbus at Easton.
The American Girl Package includes an American Girl Doll-sized travel bed, access to the hotel’s American Girl Library and even milk and cookies at bedtime. The Hilton at Easton is within walking distance to the American Girl store.
For information or to book an American Girl Store package, go online to www.hiltoncolumbus.com.
American Girl facts
* More than 143 million American Girl books have been sold since 1986.
* More than 23 million American Girl dolls have been sold through the company’s catalogue, retail stores, and website since 1986.
* American Girl magazine has a circulation of more than 450,000, ranking it among the top 10 children’s magazines in the nation and the largest publication dedicated exclusively to girls ages 8 and up.
* American Girl’s retail stores have welcomed more than 54 million visitors.
* The American Girl website, americangirl.com, receives more than 70 million visits per year.
* American Girl has a longstanding commitment to children’s charities nationwide. To date, the company has donated more than $96 million in cash and products.