By wonderful chance, I was able to visit Chicago in mid May. Given I was right by the Magnificent Mile, there was no doubt I was going to stop in AGP Chicago and have the ultimate experience.
The store is located on N Michigan Street, and nearby many other shops. It was easy for me to find walking on foot, but I cannot give any advice if you are driving in downtown Chicago.
I first ate at the Cafe, since I had only landed an hour earlier and was starving since I didn't eat a proper breakfast. The Cafe was quiet, but this was not surprising given it was a weekday at lunchtime. There were two birthday parties going on and a scattering of other people eating. My waiter was cordial and accommodating. I opted to eat the chicken breast sandwich and sweet potato fries. The breast was large and bigger than the roll itself and was satisfying. The sweet potato fries were standard and fair quality. I also ordered a diet coke, which came in individual bottles and a glass, which surprised me a bit, but didn't take away from the dining experience.
Since I was going all out, I also ordered desert, the berry sorbet. I may have gotten it confused with another similar desert I ate one time when visiting AG Charlotte, but I was expecting a sundae (sorbet and berries) and was given two scoops of berry sorbet. The sorbet was a bit over frozen, making it difficult to pick at with my spoon given the large dish it came in, but the flavor was good.
With a full stomach, I let myself simply wander throughout the rest of the store. The second floor contains a bit of Tenney, Gabriela and Z, as well as Truly Me and then the hair salon, doll ear piercing, child ear piercing and the cafe. I found the Truly Me section a bit darker in terms of lighting than I would have liked, but otherwise it was laid out well, and was well stocked.
The first floor was where I was in absolute heaven. The design has to be the most gorgeous of all the AG stores, and I have been to LA, Charlotte and DC in recent years, and NY around ten years ago. And I don't recall simply staring at the architecture as much as I did in Chicago.
The first floor, as shown above, features the books, BeForever collection, Z, Gabriela, Tenney, WellieWishers, Bitty Baby, some store exclusives and the Truly Me Design Studio. Since the Design Studio is only at the flagship stores (Chicago, LA and NY), I had to do that. I designed a t-shirt with "Chicago" on it to act as a nice souvenir.
I didn't plan on buying a doll, but Miss Z Yang ended up coming home with me. Despite my dislike of the permapanties, my desire to own a Korean American doll being Korean myself, along with encouragement from a friend and my parents, won out at the end. In searching for my Z, I did notice a good variation in the eyes - some looked more like the current Truly Me Jess molds, others looked like a new cast of the Jess mold and had larger eye openings. I opted for one that has the larger eyes openings and looked at me straight on. I also came home with Z's accessories and Samantha's bicycle since it was on sale.
While the permapanties are no longer an issue, I am not a proponent of the new body fabric being used on the dolls now, which include non-permapanties dolls like the BeForever Felicity. It is thinner and I forsee possible ripping if not careful or snagging with velcro. Thankfully, I had a spare light skinned body at home which Z received, so I will not be sending her in for a body swap; however I would rate the new body fabric lower quality than I would expect from American Girl.
Otherwise, I think Z is a perfectly cute doll. Her wig is thinner than other dolls, but not so thin that is seems "cheapened". Her outfit, despite being pieces of previous Truly Me or GOTY outfits, is funky and cute when all together with her accessories. Her collection is also adorable in person and has some nice new pieces that AG had not really done before. If I had a way, I would have purchased her desk set. She also represents a nice segment that AG had not covered before with a character doll - creativity and technology.
That being said, if you ever have a chance to visit AGP Chicago, do it. Second, now that the permapanties are a non-issue, and that was the only issue holding you back from getting Z, get her. She is a lovely doll with much potential.