American Girl Store Holds Soft Opening

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ST. LOIS, MO (KPLR)-- It was a landmark day for St. Louis area shoppers Wednesday;  parents, grandparents, and most especially little girls.

St. Louis became now the 12th U.S. city to have its own American Girl store.
Store managers had what they called a 'soft opening' ahead of Saturday morning`s grand opening.

There was nothing soft about sales.

"It`s a brand that girls love and moms trust," said Wade Oplan, VP of retail sales for the American Girl chain.

It`s also a brand cities want, but only 12 have.  St. Louis joining the likes of Chicago, New York, and Boston,  getting a store ahead of Miami and Houston, which will be next to get them.

"I think I screamed and ran around the house a few times," said 7-year-old Samantha Hechler of her reaction upon hearing the news.

"Girls are growing up so fast these days.  American Girl wants to keep them wholesome and honest," Opland said.

The 11,000 sq. ft. Store features a bistro where girls, their dolls and their families can actually have lunch.  There`s a salon, where the $105 dolls can go to a hairdresser for another $22 or so.   The girls and the grownups say the big draw is the 'real-life' aspect of collection.  The dolls reflect different time periods in history, different ethnicities, each has its own story book.  Girls create dolls that actually look like they do.  Their teeth may not be perfect, one doll wears orthodontic headgear. They break their bones playing soccer, one soccer player doll is in a wheel chair with its leg in a cast.  They play the violin.

"My daughter is so into the books.  She loves reading them.  She loves reading about the historical characters.  I love the information she gets through the stories," said mother Cindy Hechler.

"I can do their hair.  I can go online and make them into a person and make them go places," said Sophia Deckelman, 9.

"It`s about the content online, historical characters, about the books and all the stories.  So the girls learn about being brave, truthful, honest, as they grow up through these stories," Opland said.

He said American Girl had revenues of $511 million last year.

The store also brings 100 new jobs to the mall.  Again, the store has opened for good.  But the grand opening is Saturday morning at 9.  There will be a ribbon cutting and exclusive free gifts for girls who come Saturday.

Opland said the line would likely start forming 24-36 hours early; the first girl in line gets to help cut the ribbon.  He expected about 10,000 visitors during the grand opening weekend.

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