Last weekend was a whirlwind for the folks who work at the new American Girl store at Crabtree Valley Mall in Raleigh.
Liz Dombroski, the store manager, tells me people started lining up at 4:30 a.m., Saturday, to be among the first in line to walk into the temporary store, which will stay open until late January. By the end of Saturday, more than 1,300 people had picked up tickets to enter the store on opening day. Sunday, Dombroski tells me, was just as busy.
The store, one of seven temporary American Girl stores open for the holiday season across the country, sits on the lower level next to the coin-operated play area and Sears.
It features items from each of the popular brand's lines - though not every single item in every single line, Dombroski said. The store also has a doll hair salon where kids can have their American Girl doll's hair and nails done or ears pierced for between $10 and $25, depending on the service.
Dombroski expects brisk business at the store - and she should know. This is the third American Girl store that she's opened. She also was there when stores in Columbus, Ohio, and Charlotte first welcomed customers. She still works at the Charlotte store, but is here in Raleigh to run things at Crabtree Valley Mall.
If you go, some things to know:
- Yes, your kids can play with everything that's in the displays. Unlike the Charlotte store where some displays sit behind glass cases, kids are encouraged to play with the dolls, clothes and accessories in display areas. You'll find them all over the store.
- No, you won't get free shipping if you order an item that's not offered in the store. But you will get free shipping if the Raleigh store has sold out of a particular item and you order it there.
- The store may offer occasional special activities, such as pop-up crafts, but there's no set schedule for those.
- The doll salon is first come, first served. It's not unusual for the Charlotte store's salon to be booked through late afternoon by mid-morning. If you want to beat the crowds, go on a weekday or get there early on a Saturday or Sunday.
- Store hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m., Sunday.
- The store will carry the new Girl of the Year when she is unveiled on Jan. 1. Dombroski expects more long lines of American Girl fans that day.
- The store does not carry the brand's full line of books, but you will find books from the Truly Me series and Be Forever series, along with popular activity books.
This is the second year American Girl has opened temporary holiday stores. Could Raleigh be in the running for a permanent one? An American Girl representative told me back in August that it's "possible."
Dombroski echoed that potential. She said the company is focusing on the temporary store right now, but once it closes at the end of January, they'll take a look. She encouraged fans to contact customer service to let them know they want American Girl in the Triangle - all of the time. But she did note one hurdle: The company typically doesn't locate stores so close to each other and Charlotte is just a few hours away.
"They take that feedback and they listen to it," Dombroski said. "That's half the reason why we have a temporary store."
The store is at Crabtree Valley Mall, 4325 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh.