Mothers with young daughters from San Francisco to San Jose have been buzzing with excitement over the news of Stanford Shopping Center’s latest tenant: American Girl Place. The company behind the wildly popular line of 18-inch historical and look-alike dolls will be opening their newest retail store in Fall 2013.
American Girl first appeared on my radar almost 6 years ago, and although I was initially skeptical of these overpriced icons of materialism, it didn’t take me long to swallow some humble pie, buy an American Girl for my daughter and join the dark side. Now I’m totally in love with these charming heirlooms that get girls interested in history and inspired to be independent and self-empowered (witness the power of good marketing and adorable accessory sets). Don’t get me wrong, I still think they’re overpriced, but if you can afford to blow $200 on a video game console that keeps your kid indoors staring at a screen, you (or the grandparents) can afford to blow $100 on a doll and another $100 on accessories that encourage creative play with friends.
Of course, now that the American Girl Place is set to open, it’s not going to stop at $200. In addition to selling the full line of American Girl products — American Girl dolls, Bitty Baby dolls, Bitty Twin dolls, plus all their playsets and accessories — the store will feature a bistro, a doll hair salon, and a custom doll T-shirt boutique. In keeping with the company’s high-end niche, a visit to the Disneyland of Dolliness won’t come cheap: expect to pay around $20-$25 per person for a meal, $15 and up to style your daughter’s doll’s hair, and a minimum of $12 for a custom doll T-shirt. Not to mention $30 for an American Girl Place San Francisco (will it say San Francisco? Palo Alto? Stanford?) souvenir tshirt for your daughter and a host of other adorable items.
Despite the high price tag that comes with a visit, all I can say is, Thank God! and It’s About Time! Given the high net worth of the population in the SF Bay Area, I’m surprised it has taken American Girl this long to get here. But now that American Girl Place is practically in my back yard, at least I won’t have to worry about saving up for plane tickets and hotel rooms to visit any of the other American Girl Place stores. Of the fourteen locations, only two — LA and Seattle — are on the West Coast, still a major haul for Northern California moms just dying to give their little girl a magical experience.
And it really is a magical experience. I’ve been able to take The Pea to two stores so far, Chicago and LA. We had fun just walking around the stores and seeing dolls displayed in their miniature worlds. Neither visit was for a special occasion like a birthday or holiday, so I managed to spend less than $20 on merchandise — a pair of glasses, a doll tshirt — and The Pea treasures those souvenirs of her visit. On our visit to the LA store I treated her to lunch at the American Girl Cafe, and it was totally worth the money. Everything felt special, from the signature pink-black-and-white decor to the doll highchairs the servers provided (they’ll even loan your little girl a doll to keep her company at the table if she doesn’t have one) to the cute cookie-in-a-flowerpot dessert.
The Pea is going on twelve now. She’s on the verge of outgrowing American Girls: young enough to be super excited about the new American Girl Place, but old enough for me to know that we’ll probably get to enjoy, at most, one or two more special mom-and-daughter teas or brunches before she starts thinking it’s lame. I wonder if they’re starting a reservation list for the bistro in the new store. It’s sure to fill up, so I’d better put my name down before my daughter grows up!