Development Beat: She Was An American Girl

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Temporary seasonal stores are nothing new: every October brings with it a slew of Halloween Adventures to the nation’s malls and shopping centers, while December ushers in a countless number of “Go Calendar” kiosks and outlets.

This weekend at Crabtree, a new kind of temporary store with merchandise far more terrifying than anything you’d find at Halloween Adventure will be holding a two-day grand opening celebration: American Girl.

Employees of the new, temporary American Girl store at Crabtree were hard at work Wednesday prepping for this weekend's grand opening

James Borden

Employees of the new, temporary American Girl store at Crabtree were hard at work Wednesday prepping for this weekend’s grand opening

For those unfamiliar with the brand, American Girl is a line of dolls portraying young, preteen girls from various periods of American history, as well as a series of more contemporary dolls, often featured as “Girl of the Year.”

There are three main “American Girl Place” locations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles as well as a number of smaller boutiques scattered throughout the country, including one at the South Park Mall in Charlotte. Even the boutiques are considered destination locations: hotel packages are offered specifically for American Girl shoppers.

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On a lark, this reporter once visited the NYC location out of curiosity and it was even more horrifying and tacky than I’d expected. The already overpriced dolls, which retail for around $115, are often accompanied by hundreds of dollars worth of accessories, and the stores — including the one at Crabtree — offer salons where the dolls can have their hair cut or styled for a typically exorbitant price.

The 5,500 square-foot Crabtree location will open in a space once held by Rack Room Shoes on the first floor next to the entrance to Sears. Per the American Girl website, grand opening attendees will be required to obtain an entrance ticket:

In order to ensure the enjoyment and safety of our customers, tickets are required for entry into the store during grand-opening weekend. If we reach capacity for the day, no more entrance tickets will be distributed.

Beginning one hour before store opening on Saturday and Sunday, American Girl will distribute entrance tickets for that day. Entrance tickets can be obtained near our store entrance and are valid only on the day they’re issued.

Entrance tickets for Saturday will only be good for Saturday, same for Sunday.

I guess it’s not bad enough that  parents will feel obligated to take their kids out to the mall for an overpriced doll this weekend, they’ve got to show up an hour early and score a ticket for the privilege.

At least the ticket comes with a “free gift” and a “craft” (while supplies last), and the store itself will hold a drawing for a free Lea Clark doll. Lea Clark is the name of the American Girl 2016 “Girl of the Year.” Her clothes cost more than mine do: a $28 “Adventure Tee” $22 “Rainforest Dreams” slippers, and a $58 “celebration” dress. Just awful.

Some of Lea's accessories

Some of Lea’s accessories

The store will remain open from October 1 through January 31, and is one of several temporary locations — others include Philadelphia, San Antonio and Portland — set to open this year. The first American Girl temporary boutique opened in October 2014 in Hawaii and closed the following April.

A shot inside the store, before I was asked to stop taking pictures

James Borden

A shot inside the Crabtree store, before I was asked to stop taking pictures

 

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