My Trip to American Girl Place, Columbus

Yesterday my husband and I went to Columbus, Ohio so I could check out the American Girl store there.  It is located in Easton Town Center, a unique shopping mall built to look like a self contained “town” with some very unique and high end stores.   American Girl Place opened there in 2013, the first AG store (and currently still the only one) in Ohio!  We got up bright and early since we had an almost 3 hour drive there, arrived just 15 minutes before the store opened.  Just enough time to run to the restroom and take some photos outside.  (FYI, the bathroom is very close, a good thing for parents to know about 😉 )

Here is the front of the store, a typical AG store front.
AG Place 1

Before I get to the “serious” business, a couple of things that I think are important. Because of the way this mall is set up, there are not only parking lots and garages that are free, but in some areas there are “streets” and they have parking meters. To me it was worth being able to park right in front of the store, it was only $1.50 for just over an hour (more than enough time for me to do some damage to the credit card!) and so worth it to be able to just walk out, open the door of my car and put my goodies in. They do ask that you use the metered parking for short trips not exceeding 90 minutes which makes complete sense. The money from these meters goes to a local organization too, so you are technically making a donation to a worthwhile cause. A win all directions! We were there early enough to get the spot right in front of the store, my husband was technically “working” so he waited in the car and did just that while I shopped. We were both happy.  He said he made some faces at me but I didn’t see him, what a goofball!

Here are some pictures I took through the store windows-they aren’t the greatest because I’m taking them through not one but two layers of glass in some cases, but this was the only way I could get pictures of these displays as they are so close to the windows, once you are in the store you can’t get them.
AG Place 2 Julie’s car-this is beyond cute!
AG Place 3
Rebecca’s bed, also very cute!
AG Place 4
And Josephina’s bed!

I had arranged to have a personal shopper and since I had the first appointment of the day, no waiting. I was met by Sue, she was terrific. We had a fun time as she guided me through the different sections. She was a few years older than me, so we had a nice “reminisce” by the Julie display, we both remembered having clothing items like those in her collection. We also discussed some of the criticism on some of the new outfits (both thinking that most of it was nit-picking) as well as what was selling well. She said that overall the BeForever launch was doing well and that they hoped as the holiday season approached, more and more people would see it and fall in love with it. I did try to find out if the meet outfits being sold separately was something that was short or long term and she said that corporate was keeping that very closely guarded and that they didn’t even know in store-argh! She was surprised when I told her that this past week I noticed that the old outfits were now available individually on the website, she said she would have to check it out. (Did anyone else notice that? I was shocked but excited.)

I also asked her if anything had been said about making another doll from the Marie-Grace mold and she said that there hadn’t been anything mentioned, but she agreed that she was such a pretty doll and it would be a shame if they didn’t. I also learned something about Bitty Baby that I wasn’t aware of: Bitty Baby sold singly is geared as a “first doll” for toddlers, that’s why the hair is molded. Then as the child gets older, Bitty Twins are geared for them since they have hair, but not as much hair as the American Girl dolls, making it easy for them to care for and a nice transition. I thought that was very interesting! She said that she has heard about a lot of Bitty Baby dolls being given as baby shower gifts, hmmm…

After about 45 minutes we had gone through the majority of the store.  The Columbus store is a smaller scale store, but does offer all the services that the other stores do.  Sue told me that the biggest difference is they don’t have a display of all of the dolls of the year like the larger stores and they have fewer displays overall-you could have fooled me!  The bistro is very small but it does have the extra room for birthday parties.  Because of it’s small size though, I would definitely make a reservation in advance as I can see where it would fill up very quickly.  They also have a hair salon, there were several “clients” there while I was shopping.

At this point I was left to my own devices, so I decided to take some photos first and then do my shopping.  I really concentrated on a couple of my favorite thing as well as a couple of things that I felt fall flat in the catalog and online.  Without further ado:

AG Place 5
Here is Kit’s large display. I had to take a picture of this because (I’ve never admitted this on the blog before) Kit is my favorite of all the dolls. I didn’t get her new meet outfit on this trip, but I am definitely going to order it before the year is out, it is just adorable. She has had a slight haircut this time around, but not a ton. I deliberately checked that out because my sister fell in love with my Kit doll when she was here visiting and was thinking about getting her, but we wanted to be sure she hadn’t changed too much in looks.

AG Place 6
Samantha’s ice cream shop. This set is really very nice and one of those ones that the catalog/website doesn’t do justice to. It’s really much nicer in person. One advantage of having a personal shopper was her pointing out some of the pieces and just how well made they are, she had me pick up the little cash register, it’s all metal and really heavy! She said that response to this set has been phenomenal.

AG Place 7
Caroline and the Table and Treats set along with the parlor. Once again I picked up the tiered tray with the food on it and was very impressed with how sturdy it is. To those who have been criticizing the newer items and that they are cheaply made-you don’t know what you are talking about. I was excited to see the parlor set up close too, it is very nice in person, if it’s something you have been considering but wasn’t sure about, let me just say it’s really very well made and thought out.

AG Place 8
And of course, another shot of Julie and her car!!! Sue showed me how the radio button pushes in and makes a car engine sound and then the radio “plays”, just too cute for words. I would LOVE to have this, still thinking on it. I probably should hurry too as I have a feeling this is one of the things on it’s way out. I just haven’t figured out how to justify the price, plus trying to store it could be a bit of a hassle, although not any worse than the sled I have 😉

All of the historical items are at the front of the Columbus store with the MAG stuff in the back portion. There is also another entrance in the back of the store which is convenient if you are going to the bistro first before shopping. Overall the store is nicely laid out and in my honest opinion, just the perfect size.

Some more photos of some of the MAG stuff:
AG Place 9
This was one of the few displays that wasn’t behind glass so you could get a really good look at it. Sue told me that this set was also very popular with both children and collectors and I can see why. It is not only really well done, but it has a ton of little pieces with it that would allow for a lot of different play options. Because of this, I am giving this set my “A+” and “#1” of all the more expensive playsets. If I had a kid who was looking at several different ones, I would more than likely buy this first.

AG Place 10
Here is some back to school stuff. The accessories for the locker are really well thought out, but the locker-what the heck? Is it just me or does it seem too short? I don’t remember school lockers being that little in proportion to the kids. For this reason I don’t think I would buy this.

AG Place 11
I thought all of this display was cute and well thought out.  In this photo you can see the rear entrance to the store and the Bitty Baby section just off to the right.  I think the layout of the store is very good with something to see at every turn!

Of course, I had to include pictures of the musical displays. I was involved in our music department just about the entire time I was in school and helped a little even after I graduated, so I have a bit of a soft spot for these items. The guitar is really nice, one of the things I have on my list for later.
AG Place 12

AG Place 13

AG Place 14

Overall I had a great time and I am looking forward to going back. The employees are fantastic too, from the moment I got there to when I left, they all had big smiles on their faces and couldn’t have been more helpful, but not pushy. When I went to check out I was waited on by Jennifer, she was terrific. There was a little set of shoes I had noticed on some of the dolls in the store exclusive area, so I asked her about them and she told me about them and when I said I’d like to have them she went and got them for me instead of me having to go find them. Now that’s service! I was also impressed with another of the personal shoppers, she was working with a family there who were getting a first doll, she was sitting on the floor with the little girl while she decided which doll she liked, they had the box opened and she was really studying them while the personal shopper pointed out different things. I probably wouldn’t use the personal shopper service in store again since I have already done it and I’m familiar enough with the line and the store, but I think it’s a terrific service for those who are there for a first visit, a first doll or a grandparent or other family member who is looking for a gift who may not be as familiar with their products. Now if they would just open a store in the Pittsburgh area, pretty please?!?!?!?!

I will share with you my purchases in a few days, I got several store exclusives that I just love as well as a couple of catalog items I had on my list.