I’m a Barbie girl in a Barbie world.
Or at least I was for two hours when my daughter Meg and I visited the Barbie Café in the heart of South Street Seaport. The two-story, pop-up eatery is only open until September to help promote the new “Barbie” movie starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling premiering in July.
“Hi, Barbies,” is how parties are greeted. These usually are made up of mother/daughter combos in matching B-themed tops (and lots of pink) as well as female Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials—like myself and my 25-year-old daughter Meg—wanting to pay tribute to the doll who taught us how to dress, choose careers, and, despite the wedding dress ensemble, that a single woman could own a dream house, camper, convertible, and so much more.
According to one of the establishment’s hostesses, it’s also a go-to place for daddy/daughter dates. Yes, “Kens” are welcome. Aside from the fact that Ken is what the male servers are called, I was told some fathers come in “I’m a Ken” t-shirts and can order from the Ken-friendly menu (beer and double beef burgers).
Speaking of the food, it’s a cut above diner fare complemented by cocktails and mocktails and pink lemonade—oh, my.
And yes, of course, you can leave with a souvenir from the gift shop.
The real energy from the place though comes from the guests running around taking advantage of all the photo-ops to pose with provided by the décor: signage, surfboards to either stand on or as wall-hanging backdrops, a lifeguard station mural, a giant boombox, a sandbox replete with Adirondack chairs and sandcastle (I restrained myself from removing my shoes to wiggle my toes in it), and the most popular picture perfect setting, a life-size shadow box with accessories on one side and a place for you to pose on the other. The result is you look like a Barbie doll ready for purchase.
I’m the same age as Barbie and my roundup of dolls included the 11.5-inch icon, her BFF Midge, little sister Skipper, cousin Scooter, Ken, and his best pal Alan. Forty years later, Meg had so many versions of Barbie herself, but also her many new friends, three sisters, and all their friends as well that we needed two Barbie suitcases to store them. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that today, young girls have even more.
For anyone who might harbor the illusion that Barbie is a silly child’s toy joined at the hip with the frothy pigment of pink, how embarrassing for you.
·Barbie has over 99% brand awareness globally.
·More than 100 dolls are sold every minute
· She has a powerful social media presence with over 19 million followers.
· The complete collection of “Barbie – Dolls of the World” includes 91 dolls on all continents.
· 25 (and counting) celebrities have their own Barbie likeness.
· Barbie has had over 250 careers including:
-Running for President in every election since 1992.
-Saving lives as a surgeon as far back as 1973 when very few women were in the operating room.
-Encouraging more girls to explore the STEM field by being a computer engineer, video game developer, Mars explorer, and robotics engineer.
· Barbie has been a muse to prominent artists and fashion designers over the past 6 decades.
· Barbie is the most diverse and inclusive fashion doll on the market.
· The first Barbie sold for three dollars. A mint condition Barbie #1 sold at auction in 2006 for $27,450. In 2010, Stefani Canturi Barbie sold at auction for $302,500.
Aside from all the aforementioned Malibu Barbie fun you’ll enjoy at the café, you’ll also leave with a mélange of her Cali vibe mantras such as Today is the day; Stay golden; Make waves; and Shine on.
If only the real world was as positive a place as Barbie’s.
Malibu Barbie Cafe New York, 19 Fulton Street, NY, NY 10038. For reservations: https://bucketlisters.com/experience/malibu-barbie-cafe-new-york
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of several novels, most recently The Last Single Woman in New York City (Heliotrope Books).