If you’re a fan of Kit, Addy or Josefina, you probably squealed with delight when you found out an American Girl store was opening at Tysons Corner. And you’re not alone. Several thousand girls and their parents are expected to line up June 18 to surround themselves with dolls, clothes, books and the signature red and pink celebration of girlhood.
Hailey Irwin, 10, of Washington says she has been to the company’s New York City store, the closest one until now, but she plans to line up at the grand opening. “I have all the history books. I’ve read them all,” said Hailey, who also has five of the dolls at home.
“I actually didn’t know until a couple of days ago,” said Katie Gallagher, 9, of Falls Church.
“We were driving by [Tysons Corner], and my friends pointed out where they were going to have the shop. We all got very excited.”
Katie, who has Molly and Krissah dolls, says she doesn’t have a favorite but she relates more to Molly. “She’s stubborn just like me.”
Katie knows all about Molly’s personality because she is one of the American Girl dolls based on historical characters in a series of books. Molly is from the 1940s, and her father is serving in World War II. Kit lives during the Great Depression, when many people, including her dad, lost their jobs. Addy is a runaway slave who moves north during the Civil War.
American Girl has at least six books for each of its seven historical dolls, with clothes and accessories tied to the stories. There’s also a series of non-historical dolls — with every combination of eye, hair and skin color — as well as a baby doll for little girls and many outfits girls can wear to coordinate with their dolls.
The books, dolls and clothes were sold only through the American Girl catalogue beginning in 1986, but the company opened its first American Girl Place 13 years ago in Chicago. Washington is the 10th store and is a bit smaller than the ones in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. But like its big sisters, it’s more than a store.
“It’s about making memories that they normally wouldn’t have,” said David Cohen, the Tysons store manager.
That could mean a stop at the bistro for lunch, dinner or a two-foot banana split. Dolls can sit in pink chairs that hook onto the tables with their own tiny plates, cups and spoons. A party room is available for birthday celebrations.
There’s also a doll T-shirt-making studio and a hair salon, where girls can place their dolls in pint-size pink swivel chairs and pick a new ’do from 22 styles.
“That sounds really fun,” Katie said of the hair salon. “Molly’s hair is pretty tangled. We took her braids out.”
Cohen said he is also planning special events, including a collaboration with the Smithsonian, dad-and-daughter programs, manners workshops and author appearances.
“The authors are our celebrities,” he said.
The store is working on scheduling a visit with Valerie Tripp , who wrote most of the stories for five of the historical characters and who lives in Silver Spring.
And for grand opening weekend, Cohen promises face painting and balloon artists during what may be a long wait in line. At a store that celebrates girls and all their positive qualities, the most important one to have next weekend is probably patience.