Gwinnett Place Mall goes back to the future for ‘Stranger Things’

Posted Friday, May 11, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Gwinnett Place Mall opened in 1984 and quickly became a go-to shopping magnet in the county.

Three decades later as other malls and online shopping have stolen its thunder, Gwinnett Place is on life support with gaping empty spaces that used to house retail shops.

So it’s just a little bit ironic that a portion of the mall has literally gone back to 1985, courtesy of the huge Netflix hit “Stranger Things,” which just began season three production. The show is fictionally set in the mid-1980s in a small Indiana town so Gwinnett Place Mall has become Starcourt Mall.

RELATED: Matt Kempner’s 2017 column about Gwinnet Place Mall’s efforts to regroup

RELATED: Matt Kempner’s’ 2018 column about how a dead body was left unnoticed at the mall for weeks

The production company has painstakingly re-created storefronts for such 1980s staples as Orange Julius, Chess King, Waldenbooks, Time-Out Arcade and Wicks ‘N Sticks. There’s even a jazzercise studio. And the cinema, using a BeautyMaster entrance, features films “Fletch” and “Cocoon” as well as movie posters for upcoming films “Back to the Future” and “Day of the Dead.” That means season three begins in June of 1985.

I credit this website tonetoatl.com for breaking the news and taking lots of photos. It noted that “I, Tonya” used the mall for a 1990s-era scene last year. 

For me, this is a true flashback since I was just about to turn 16 at the time and spent way too much time at what was the Mid-Island Mall in Hicksville, N.Y. on Long Island (Now known as Broadway Commons.).

I walked the “Stranger Things’ portion of the mall today but since they were getting ready to shoot today, crew did not allow photos inside the area where shooting was to take place. 

From public mall area outside of shooting range, you could easily see the fake Radio Shack and Chess King:

There were a few extras dressed in their 1980s finest floating around, too. There is a casting call for more mall patrons for next week.

The actual Sears in the mall erected an old-fashioned logo up though it actually wasn’t the logo from 1985. (CORRECTION: I’m told that is actually their normal logo. What??? Isn’t this the normal Sears logo?)

Unfortunately, a large part of the mall looks more like this now:

A Gwinnett Place Mall spokesman declined to comment, referring any reporter questions to “Stranger Things.”

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