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American Girl pamper palace takes doll-play to new heights


MIDDLETON, WIS. —Robert A. Eckert, chairman and ceo of Mattel, may have his hands full with recent recall escapades, but not all is doom and gloom for Mattel. The American Girl Brands division of the toy retailer is providing some much needed light.

The company introduced American Girl Boutique and Bistro, a new retail concept, inside the 12,000-square foot retail site in Atlanta’s North Point Mall this August. The one-of-a-kind store welcomed girls to an interactive and fun environment complete with the Doll Hair Salon, favorite American Girl products, like Dress

Like Your Doll clothing, and delicious treats for children and their parents.

“Feedback about the new store has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Stephanie L. Spanos, public relations manager. “We couldn’t have asked for a better response to our grand opening in Atlanta.”

Over 15,000 people visited the American Girl Boutique and Bistro during opening week. The store had its hands full preparing close to 2,000 meals and styling nearly 600 dolls at the Doll Hair Salon. No wonder store traffic has been above satisfactory. But how many mall-based retailers allow customers to host special occasion parties?

American Girl offers four themed celebrations and moms can breathe a sigh of relief because for $450, eight guests ($25 for each additional guest, 14 guests max) can enjoy a 2-hour, fully equipped party with a host, party favors, group photos, invitations and thank you cards, food and, of course, cake.

Parties aside, the inclusion of the restaurant has allowed the retailer’s young clientele base to spend an entire day at the store, helpint to create destination-shopping trips. Inside the 77-seat casual bistro, which caters brunch, lunch and dinner, guests can select from a menu complete with star-shaped “Stellar” pizzas, creamy four-cheese macaroni, and more sophisticated dishes like grilled pacific king salmon and chicken paillard. Of course, the dolls are invited to dine next to their owners thanks to a personal ‘treat seat’ and a doll-sized menu.

The success of the Atlanta-based American Girl Boutique and Bistro has lead to a scheduled Nov. 3 opening of the 22,000-square foot retail site inside the Galleria mall, in Dallas. “American Girl Boutique and Bistro is our opportunity to celebrate with even more girls and provide them with a fun, new way to enjoy the American Girl experience,” said Ellen L. Brothers, president of American Girl.

For now, the expansion of the Boutique and Bistro stops in Dallas. “A visit to American Girl Place is still considered the ultimate brand experience, which is why it’s important for us to keep them special and unique by limiting them to select cities in the country,” said Spanos. However, the company will be evaluating other options based on the success of both Atlanta and Dallas.

In addition to the expansion, American Girl on Sept. 10 launched a new doll—Julie Albright is a 9-year-old girl growing up in 1970s San Francisco. She is the first new character to join American Girl’s historical line of dolls and books in five years.

“Although the 1970s represented a period of societal upheaval, they were also a time of positive change for many Americans,” said Brothers. “Our hope is that Julie’s stories can still touch and teach girls of today. More than any American Girl character before her, Julie bridges the past and present and allows moms to share their personal experiences with their daughters and show them how changes made today can make a profound difference within their own lifetimes.”

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