Originally posted Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
After “Stranger Things” came out with season three last Thursday, fans online figured out that the fictional Starcourt Mall was actually a portion of the now ghost-like Gwinnett Place Mall.
Gawkers began visiting the area in hopes of catching a glimpse of a 1985-era Orange Julius or Chess King or the focal Scoops Ahoy ice cream show where Robin and Steve worked and decoded Russian messages with Dustin.
It didn’t help that websites were encouraging people to stop by and take selfies. Security hired by Netflix to keep the place in order were overwhelmed. So Netflix decided to just dismantle it so people wouldn’t vandalize or steal souvenirs. Starting this past Monday, crew began taking the set apart. TMZ was contacted Tuesday to ward fans away.
Oddly, Netflix kept Starcourt Mall more or less in place for several months after production wrapped. Lisa Anders, who is executive director of Explore Gwinnett, said she had heard Netflix was considering turning the space into a more permanent tourist attraction as promotion for the show. It didn’t come to fruition.
“It was a great missed opportunity ,” Anders said. “We were geared up to do it. We would have loved to have done it.”
An employee helping dismantle the space who declined to be named because he wasn’t authorized to speak about it said he was told to nearly pack away the set of Scoops Ahoy intact, possibly for a future “Stranger Things” amusement park attraction.
Netflix leased out only a small portion of the actual Gwinnett Place Mall, maybe 15 or 20 percent of it to build out about 40 shops. I first visited in May of 2018 when “Stranger Things” was first building out the mall space and sadly, the rest of the mall looks no better in 2019 than it did in 2018.
Most of the real mall now remains empty with only a handful of mall staples remaining such as Foot Locker, Finish Line, Victoria’s Secret and Macy’s.
But the area Netflix built out was an incredibly accurate re-creation of a mall from the MTV days: Waldenbooks, Radio Shack, Sam Goody, Claire’s, Wicks-n-Sticks, Kaufman Shoes, et. al. There was a movie theater advertising “Back to the Future” and “Fletch,” plus a jazzercise studio. Survivors of that era like the Gap, Zale’s, Ground Round, JCPenney and Burger King are included as well.
The minute I got close to the one entrance to get into the Starcourt space, a wary security guard stopped me, tired of the constant flow of intruders. He shooed me away.
The upstairs space entrance was blocked off completely:
Outside the mall, I was able to see evidence of “Stranger Things” junk being dumped.
And there was detritus like the front of a car grill:
In “Stranger Things,” there were hallways behind the stores featured as a way to sneak into the movie theater. One leading to Starcourt itself was open from the outside so I snuck in myself for a few seconds:
What’s funny to me were the names of old mall stores that used to be at Gwinnett Place Mall. They remain on the signs leading into the back employee entrances of retail shops of yore: Forever 21, Camelot Music and Kay-Bee Toys.
And Chess King’s sign appeared to be one of the last still up as of Wednesday, July 10:
I met up with some dedicated “Stranger Things” fans Kianna Dudley, 20, and Rachel Craig, 19, came to the mall twice - all the way from Jefferson - to check out the scene. They convinced an employee to walk them through the set but couldn’t take photos inside.
Last July, 2018, Anthony E provided a walking tour of a portion of the set:
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