Dec. 1, 2009— -- Eloise comes alive inside a new shop at The Plaza Hotel in New York featuring all things about the legendary storybook character.
The idea was to put the little girl who's always on the move in a spot so everyone could experience her world. The 2,100-square-foot Eloise shop, which opened today, is the first of its kind, with the look and feel of a child's playhouse.
"We thought Eloise deserved a home," said Kristin Franzese, executive vice president of retail, The Shops at The Plaza, who was part of a team that conceived the store.
In the books, the mischievous 6-year-old who lives at The Plaza is known for flitting from one part of the hotel to another. While her spirit is felt throughout the building, "you never did see Louise; she was always just at the Palm Court or over there," Franzese said.
The character of Eloise has widespread appeal, and the store was designed to continue that trend, Franzese said.
"It's a multigenerational store. A lot of moms remember Eloise and the books from when they were kids, and they pass it on to their children," she said.
It's now become a full-fledged experience, as the store's creators wanted to allow children to share an interactive world with Eloise, according to Franzese.
The book's creators, author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight, worked on "Eloise: A book for precocious grownups" while staying at The Plaza in 1954.
In the story, 6-year-old Eloise took up residence at the hotel in 1955 with Weenie, her pet pug, Skipperdee, her turtle, and her nanny. Thompson then wrote a succession of books featuring the indominable little girl, including "Eloise in Paris" in 1956, "Eloise at Christmastime" in 1958 and "Eloise in Moscow" in 1959. Thompson died in 1998.
Hotel guests are very familiar with Eloise's storied history, said Raphael Pallais, concierge at The Plaza.
"Little girls ask for Eloise," Pallais said. "Often their parents will ask them to ask us."
He's long been getting questions about the fictional character, and is thrilled about the newest addition to the hotel.
"We have high hopes for Eloise. She's such a character and a personality, a lot like The Plaza," he said. "Of all the fictional characters, she's the only one who lives in a real building."
Carving Out a Place for Eloise
Franzese said her team was able to move quickly because there was a clear vision of what the store should be like.
"We wanted it to be experiential. The décor was easy: pink," she said.
Pink serves as a backdrop for everything in the store. The pink on the walls are matched to the same shade as the pink in the book, while the drapes, bean bags, furniture and carpet are various shades. Light fixtures covered in pink cloth shine overhead throughout the store.
"We didn't want it to be one dimensional with all one color pink," Franzese said.
Eloise's eponymous shop continues the hotel's effort to carve out a definitive spot for Eloise. The hotel began offering a "live like Eloise" package June 1.
When The Plaza's redesigned Web site debuts later this month, Eloise will have her own section. An Eloise fan club and recommendations from Eloise on places to visit in the hotel, the park and the city are forthcoming on the new Web site.
Then, in 2010, The Plaza plans to unveil an Eloise-themed suite designed by Betsey Johnson.
The shop's rooms were inspired by the "Eloise" books. In the main room, the plush pink carpet features words in black taken from the Eloise book, which reads: "There is a lobby which is enormously large with marble pillars and ladies in it…." Soon storytime will be held in this room on Saturday afternoons.
"We wanted an environment where people could come and be very comfortable," Franzese said.
The portrait of Eloise painted on directly on the wall is just like the one that appears in The Plaza's lobby, drawn by Knight, who illustrated the "Eloise" books. Only this one is painted by a local artist.
"We wanted a replica to tie it all together," Franzese said.
There's a Fashion Room because, in the books, Eloise plays dress-up with her mother's clothes. The store sells a myriad of Eloise-themed merchandise, including tiaras, tutus, sheets, pink hats with the Eloise logo, pink hooded sweatshirts, and girls' bathrobes also embroidered with the word Eloise.
Visitors can try on clothes sold in the store on a podium with a three-way-mirror. Pink curtains adorning the podium can close, emulating a dressing room.
Exploring Eloise's Rooms
A beauty salon room will have the services of a hair stylist in the spring.
Across the floor, the Tea Party room was inspired by Eloise's tea parties at The Plaza. The 6-year-old also been known to crash parties and weddings at the hotel. In the spring, this room will be open for private tea parties, etiquette classes and other special events. Inside the room are tea sets and plates specially designed with "Eloise" illustrations.
"When the tea room opens, it's going to give American Girls a run for its money," said Pallais, The Plaza's concierge.
In the reading room, children are free to sit on bean bags, browse through the Eloise books or watch DVDs of "Eloise" movies on a huge flat screen TV. Computers will be installed in the next couple of weeks with kid-friendly access, Franzese said.
Customer Aura Lev was at the store on opening day, with her granddaughters in tow, who made themselves at home on the bean bags while the TV was playing an "Eloise" DVD. Lev, a Manhattan native resident, thought the store was lovely, and while there, she bought them the original "Eloise" book.
Gina Shaw, who lives outside the city, was wandering through the store with her 3-year-old daughter, Annika. Shaw, who grew up in Nebraska, said she loved anything to do with New York.
"I read 'Eloise and the Mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,'" Shaw said.
That book features a girl who runs away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She introduced her daughter to the "Eloise" books when she was 18 months old, Shaw said.
Customers check out at the concierge, a favorite aspect of the "Eloise" books. There, customers can leave their names and contact information in the store's guest book. A pink mailbox sits in the corner.
"Little girls leave notes for Eloise, and she responds with pink notes," Franzese said.
The store didn't start out so elaborate. Franzese said she and the team talked of a pop-up shop, but the concept quickly evolved into something more.
"We thought it was a big miss to have a transitory store and not give Eloise her due," said Franzese.