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American Girl lets us hang onto childhood

What is it about American Girl that makes little girls - and their moms - spend more on clothes and accessories than they do on themselves, plan a trip to New York around a tea party reservation, and stand in line to give a doll some "spa" time?

Marketers will tell you that a good way to target Gen X moms like me is nostalgia. And that is certainly part of it. You see the "Julie" doll with her VW Beetle (which has a working horn and headlights, as well as a stereo that plays music). You see the Kit Kittredge movie, which reminds you of your grandmother's stories from the Great Depression. You see all the cool doll accessories you never had (now's your chance!).

But it's more than that, too.

In an age when little girls are fast-forwarding from age 7 to 17, American Girl gives you a pause button.

Some girls will hang onto these dolls long after Barbies and other toys have lost their interest. They will style their hair, dress them up, make them homemade furniture and accessories and read their books - i.e., act like little girls ... just a while longer.

The company has added online games and movies for the characters, but the catalog and in-store experience are all about books and dolls.

On a preview tour of the new store opening this weekend in The Falls, my 9-year-old daughter was in heaven. Look Mom, McKenna likes gymnastics, just like me. This one has hair like mine.

Just like me. Any girl, of any ethnicity - and even girls with wheelchairs, broken arms and headgear - can see themselves in an American Girl doll. And when my daughters see the dolls on the shelves that aren't like them, they learn to value diversity and inclusion.

While the dolls are pricey, at about $100 a piece, you don't have to buy one to get the American Girl experience. The American Girl books are historically accurate stories about friendship, perseverance and overcoming adversity. They only cost about $7, and most libraries have them, too. (I also swear by the American Girl Guides to adolescence and middle school).

If you want to have a tea party in the store's bistro with a doll, you don't have to own one - they have loaners. Menu prices are reasonable, with selections moms will enjoy, too (like spinach dip and tilapia).

Some other highlights of the new 16,000-square foot store, which opens Saturday:

• In the restrooms, each stall has a doll holder.

• You can buy American Girl Miami T-shirts in girl and doll sizes.

• The doll salon does hair-dos ($10-20), ear piercings and facials - only for the dolls, not the girls. :)

• Girls can make matching T-shirts for themselves and their dolls.

If you go to the Grand Opening Saturday or Sunday:

The store is at The Falls, 8888 SW 136th St., near Bloomingdale’s. It's open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Opening day tickets: Will be given out starting at 7 a.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. Sunday. Tickets are good for admission during a specific time and are only good on the day received.

Read more about American Girl and the new store at

Enjoy it while you can.

Charlene Pacenti is the editor of