American Girl Place, the retail/entertainment complex on Chicago Avenue in Chicago, has been a commercial mecca for fans of Pleasant Company's (now a division of Mattel) American Girl brand of dolls, books and merchandise since 1998. Now American Girl is set to take the Big Apple by storm. This spring, Pleasant Company will begin renovations and construction for a 42,500-square-foot American Girl Place complex at 609 Fifth Avenue (at 49th Street). Designed by New York architectural firm Gensler (who also did the Toys "R" Us store in Times Square), this second site is scheduled to open in early fall 2003, in time for the holiday shopping season.
Though the retail/entertainment concept is the same, consisting of a café, theater, bookstore area, several merchandise boutiques and staff offices, Pleasant Company public relations manager Julie Parks notes that the New York City store will have a "distinct design that's different from Chicago." She said that it will feature a number of unique experiential components that will "allow girls to interact with the brand" in various ways. For example, the Chicago store has a photo booth where girls can see themselves appear on the cover of American Girl magazine. Similar activities will be available on Fifth Avenue.
According to a recent report in Crain's New York Business, Pleasant Company signed a 15-year lease worth $100 million with Jeff Sutton, who, with some partners, owns the 13-story Fifth Avenue building. Sutton pursued Pleasant Company with great enthusiasm, Crain's reported.