In the United Kingdom, we have toy shops such as Hamleys that allow kids to interact with all the new up and coming fun things such as games, bubbles or barbies to be out on the market, however in the States there is a shop that takes the ‘toy experience’ to another level completely.
Welcome to the world of the All-American Girl store, there are many in the United States but I am going to focus on my own personal experience i had in the one in the city of Chicago. I initially remember walking past the shop where all the dolls were displayed in the window and thought ‘ that is a lot of dolls’. It was one of those stores that we were constantly walking past on a regular basis so I persuaded the person that I was with, to go in there one day. We walked in the door and it was like nothing i had ever seen before.
Now if yo have not heard of American Girl let me tell you a bit about it. The dolls are 18inches tall and they were released in 1986 by The Pleasant Company. The age of the dolls are between 8-11 and each of the girls comes with a story book telling their history of where they originated from. The aim of the dolls is to ‘teach aspects of American History and the book tells about time time period through the perspective of the Girl.” American Girl Place in Chicago is actually the Flagship store. The American Girl has a huge fandom from all over the world.
Aisle after aisle, there were dolls of all varieties, styles and themes piled high on shelves, there were display cabinets of dolls in different scenarios to portray what collection they were a part of – and that was only the front of the shop. It was absolutely overwhelming. The more you walked into the shop, the more interesting it got as a shop – there was a range of dolls that were the elite and cost a lot of money, there was so many clothes to choose from and objects that you could but for your doll as well. However that was not the end of it.
The thing that I found was the most shocking was what we found upstairs – if you are a child then I think this place is absolute magic and would be something that you would probably ask your parents to go there on a regular basis, however as an adult you feel like ‘what on earth have I walked into’ and feel sorry for the amount of money you know that parents will end up spending here.
Is your doll feeling poorly or injured itself? Never fear! There is a hospital that you can pay to check your doll into and you can even buy things such as crutches, wheelchairs and plasters for your doll. Want to have a tea party with your doll? You can! You can pay to have a special tea party in the in shop restaurant! Want to get your dolls hair designed or her ears pierced? You can do that too!!!!
Like I said at the beginning of this article, it is like nowhere I have ever experienced before and reading it you may think I am taking the mickey out of the shop but I want to highlight the fact that I am not. Being from England this was a whole new experience for me and whilst I found it pretty strange I would still recommend tourists visiting these shops as they are really pretty amazing as to what they have created in a shop space – it is immersive, it does something a lot of toy shops do not – put the childs imagination first. It is definitely a place you should experience in regardless as to whether you like dolls or not!