Thousands of girls, moms and dads packed Alderwood Mall in Lynnwood last weekend. Harry Potter? Wrong. The American Girl has arrived.
It is the 11th American Girl store to open in the U.S. The 10th opened in Washington, D.C., a month ago, attracting more than 10,000 people during the two-day opening.
“I think we are definitely going to be close to that,” said Stephanie Spanos, Public Relations Manager at American Girl.
Wade Opland, vice president of retail for American Girl, said there were around 1,200 people waiting and camping outside of the store the morning before they opened the door.
“Our first customer arrived at 5 p.m. yesterday (and) lined up,” Opland said Saturday. “She was our first girl to cut the ribbon.” He added that they were hoping to log 8,000 people for the weekend.
The Seattle store is one of only two on the West Coast. The other is in Los Angeles. Spanos said the company started looking at their customer distribution three years ago; Seattle was one of the areas where the brand was deeply rooted in people’s hearts.
“We are really excited to be here,” said Spanos. “We knew right away that we wanted to open a store in Washington, and then when we started looking at spaces, Alderwood just kind of rose to the top. It’s a great family mall, this particular area that we are in has just a really great lifestyle and (is) really great fit for the brand.”
Stella Curtis and her mother, Barbara Curtis, of Renton were among the first to be admitted to the store. They came to the mall before sunrise to get the group ticket, a check-in ticket system to shorten the waiting time. The check-in stand opened at 6 a.m. Saturday.
“We came to get the ticket at 5:30 this morning,” said Stella, who has four American Girl dolls at home. She held a doll she brought with her named Amber.
Grace Jiminez of Maple Valley and her daughter Rebecca arrived the night before to check out the new store.
“We were staying at a hotel last night for this,” said Grace Jiminez. “Last night, they were having a trial run. We got a new doll on which we spent about $250.”
American Girl is known for its historical and contemporary doll lines. The merchandise is not inexpensive. Whether it is Kit, a girl who grew up during the Great Depression, or Kanani, this year’s Doll of the Year, each doll costs about $100. With accessories, books or a starter collection, the price can go from $200 to over $ 1,000. But the high quality and deep historical and educational meanings justify the price, Opland said in an interview.
“American Girl is about the rich history of America, the building of strong characters for girls,” he added.
Janet Wilson, mother of four, said she wasn’t thinking about spending any money before visiting the store, but now she is.
“It’s hard for the little ones to see everything and not get anything,” said Wilson while waiting for her daughter McKenzie to get her doll’s ears pierced.
McKenzie said she can’t wait to celebrate her birthday in September.
“I have this magazine and I circle stuff I want for my birthday,” said McKenzie. “I might come back again before September.”
As in other stores, girls can get their doll’s hair done at the doll hair salon with 90 different hairstyles to choose from. The store also has its own restaurant, private dining room, “Creativi-Tees” boutique, doll bookstore and a “doll hospital.”
In addition, Hawaiian-style dishes will be served year-round at the 50-seat bistro to celebrate Kanani, this year’s doll who is Hawaiian and also a big nature lover.
CHEIH-HSIN (JESSIE) LIN is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.