Girls with their American Girl dolls in tow already are planning trips to Easton Town Center in anticipation of the Saturday, June 22, opening of the first American Girl store in Ohio.
"Their expectations for the store opening are that they are going to have quite a few people," said Wendy Nicodemus, director of sales and marketing for the Hilton at Easton.
The Hilton is partnering with American Girl on a one-night stay for families in which girls signed up for the American Girl package will receive a travel-size doll bed with milk and cookies provided for them -- and their doll, of course. Packages start at $219 plus tax.
Nicodemus said the hotel is booking rooms mostly for people who live one to two hours away from the store.
"It's huge," said Beth Ervin, director of communications for Experience Columbus. "Since it's been announced, that's the No. 1 term used to search on our website."
Ervin said she's been in Chicago and seen girls with dolls in hand standing outside the store waiting to get in.
"We're very excited to have them and think this is a good thing for families," Ervin said.
American Girl, now owned by Mattel, was started by Pleasant Rowland, a former teacher in Madison, Wis., who saw a need for beautiful, educational dolls that could teach children about women from the past, said Stephanie Spanos, spokeswoman for American Girl.
Rowland created a line of dolls in 1986 that "featured a character based on a pivotal time in American history," Spanos said.
Each of the dolls in the historical collection comes with a book that tells about the time period the doll was supposed to have lived in.
People who haven't read the American Girl stories and are staying at the Hilton at Easton can rent a book from the American Girl library, Nicodemus said.
The dolls are sold by direct mail via catalog and through 15 retail stores around the nation. Easton is the 16th location, Spanos said.
She said Easton was chosen as a good location for a retail store based on the amount of catalogue orders from central Ohio.
"We try to find areas that are a good fit for us," she said. "We look for the lifestyle and experiential retail that attracts families to shop and is more of a destination place."
The 18-inch-high dolls in the historical collection cost $110. Smaller, 15-inch dolls in other collections range from $75 to $115, and girls can customize those dolls, choosing eye, hair and skin color, Spanos said.
"A lot of them pick a doll that looks like them," she said.
Girls can shop for dolls and accessories in the Easton store or bring their own doll to the store and eat lunch with her or have other services provided for the doll.
Spanos said girls can have their doll's hair done in the salon for $10 to $20, depending on the style chosen, and girls can learn the best way to care for their doll's hair from the stylist. It costs $14 to have the doll's ears pierced and $5 for a doll facial. A full spa treatment, which includes a facial, a cape, nail patches, flip-flops and a faux face mask -- all for the doll -- costs $12 with any other service, Spanos said.
The store was expected to have a soft opening this week, with the official opening June 22, Spanos said.
It is located northeast of the mall, on the east side of the Strand East.