One Monday morning in February, Harry Hill, 27, walked into the American Girl Cafe dressed in a vintage Christian Dior sweater and a Coach tote bag that contained two of his favourite dolls, which he had collected over the years. Serena Kerrigan, 27, joined him, and she carried her dolls in a pink mesh Victoria’s Secret tote bag, which she sewed herself.
Mr. Hill, an influencer, is well-known for being a fan: on Instagram, he has posted a photo of himself at a 7-Eleven dressed just like one of his dolls. For Halloween, he dressed up as Samantha the doll, and he used the dolls to produce a series of memes that were shared on social media.
Ms. Kerrigan, who is also a fashion influencer, was dressed by her stylist in “head-to-toe Zara” — a Kelly green skirt suit with feather cuffs — for the occasion. “I feel like the green M&M,” she joked of her clothing. Ms. Kerrigan’s own brand, like the earlier edition of the green M&M figure, may be sarcastically amusing.
While visiting American Girl Place with Mr. Hill, she created a TikTok video in which she brought her Samantha doll to the store’s doll hospital and had her examined for sexually transmitted infections.
For adults to return to kid-centric settings in search of a dose of nostalgia and irony isn’t a completely unique notion in and of itself. Every year for decades, goths flocked to Disneyland for “Bats Day in the Fun Park,” which was dubbed “Bats Day in the Park.” Chuck E. Cheese restaurants were a source of joy for Liana Aghajanian, a writer in Detroit, who said that she continued to celebrate her birthdays there into adulthood as a tribute to joyful childhood memories she had as a first-generation American.
Five of the twelve American Girl Place locations have full-service restaurants that provide products such as cinnamon buns, macaroni and cheese, smoothies, and a variety of desserts. The other two locations have limited-service restaurants that serve items such as sandwiches and salads. The first Chicago branch, which opened in 1998, was the first to get a full liquor licence, allowing it to hold galas and charity events. The only other place that provides alcoholic beverages is New York, however beer and wine are available at all of the cafés.
In response to questions about its dolls participating in age-inappropriate conduct such as consuming alcohol, an American Girl official said that the firm invites fans of all ages to participate in American Girl activities.
The New York café where Ms. Kerrigan and Mr. Hill filmed their social media footage had charming details like little bows attached to each linen napkin, which Ms. Kerrigan and Mr. Hill found on the internet. Berry-colored banquettes complement the photo-ready walls that showcase colourful patterns set against pristine whites and neutral tones.
Toys and accessories based on premium dolls are sold at American Girl Place retail shops around the country, with prices starting at about $100 for the most basic dolls. Each doll has a back storey that places her in a distinct period of American history, which may be found on the website.
Molly, a bookish girl from the 1940s, Kirsten, a pioneer from Sweden, and Samantha, an orphan adopted into a fancy New York family during the Edwardian period were the first dolls to be published, all in 1986. Each doll appears in a historical narrative, which is available for purchase individually.
“An Addy” or “a Felicity” is a term used by certain American Girl fans to describe to oneself as a doll who has the characteristics of a particular doll.
In response to my complaining about Molly not receiving enough attention from American Girl fans, a member of the staff handed me a Molly doll and attached her chair to the edge of my table.
Hundreds of new characters have been introduced to the American Girl roster since 1986, broadening the range of periods and races that are represented by the dolls. American Girl also offers bespoke dolls, and in 2017, the company debuted Logan, the company’s first American Boy.
Some people recall that the American Girl Place retail stores played a significant role in their childhood memories. Ms. Kerrigan, who was featured in a New York Daily News article on the launch of American Girl Place, has been a fan of the brand since she was four years old.
In terms of returning to the business as an adult, Ms. Kerrigan described the experience as “truly a dream come true.”
Her eating partner was as effusive in her praise. During a Zoom interview, Mr. Hill described the event as “Disneyland for intellectual girls and lesbians.”
Millennial Mx. Flitton, who had aquamarine hair and a rainbow jumper, described the experience as “fulfilling our millennial dream.” Kaylan Howard, a friend, agreed with me on this.
Those dolls were out of reach for Ms. Howard, 32, as a youngster because they were “too pricey.” “And now that we can afford it, we can have anything if we want it.” She didn’t want it, but she did express gratitude for the complimentary loaners that were provided to them for the lunch.
After emerging from the kitchen with a birthday cake fashioned like a huge petit four, the group gathered around the table. A round of applause erupted from Ms. Flitton and her fellow members of the party.
As the waiter moved by the table, the applause began to fade down. The cake was being prepared for a young lady who was celebrating her ninth birthday in the row behind them.