‘Stranger Things’ has hap­pened

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD -

it and 18.2 million had al­ready fin­ished it en­tirely, Netflix an­nounced on Twitter.

Cre­ators Matt and Ross Duf­fer set the se­ries in fic­tional Hawkins, In­di­ana, but filmed in Georgia, which of­fers tax breaks and other in­cen­tives to moviemak­ers and whose economy in re­turn reaps $9.5 billion an­nu­ally from the film in­dus­try, ac­cord­ing to a 2018 Georgia Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment re­port.

A building on Emory Univer­sity’s Bri­ar­cliff Cam­pus in At­lanta served as the show’s Hawkins Lab­o­ra­tory, where all sorts of sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity oc­cur. In Du­luth, crews trans­formed a va­cant wing and food court in Gwin­nett Place Mall into Star­court Mall, a bustling hang­out where much of the third sea­son takes place.

The mall re­mains open to shop­pers but has dis­ap­pointed fans who visit for a “Stranger Things” ex­pe­ri­ence: A guard posted out­side the wing used in film­ing shoos away any­one who at­tempts to en­ter or take a photo. Fans can take pho­tos of the ex­te­rior, which looks sim­i­lar to the building that ap­pears in the show.

John­ston said he’s happy to give quick tours of Pig­gly Wig­gly and ex­plain where fic­tional events took place. He’ll point out the path Eleven took through the store when she stole a few boxes of Eggo waf­fles and re­call how she strut­ted away from the re­frig­er­a­tor aisle, ig­nor­ing the em­ployee chas­ing af­ter her.

Fans like to re-cre­ate this scene on­site, and some ask John­ston to play the baf­fled em­ployee and chase them out of the store, he said. He usu­ally obliges.

“We’ve had a ball with it over­all,” John­ston said. “Every­body here goes out of their way to ac­com­mo­date them.”

Employees started en­cour­ag­ing fans to write about their ex­pe­ri­ence in a notebook they keep at the store.

“Loved com­ing here to get some Eg­gos and Coke,” said one note signed by Ju­lia, Mike and Danielle from New York.

John­ston said the store’s Eggo waf­fles sales have tripled. Employees don’t re­quire vis­i­tors to make a pur­chase, but most buy some­thing any­way, in­clud­ing themed T-shirts with the phrase, “The strangest things hap­pen at Bradley’s Big Buy.”

Businesses in Jack­son are also ben­e­fit­ing from new cus­tomers in town. Through­out the se­ries, down­town Jack­son was por­trayed as the town of Hawkins, where key char­ac­ters played by Wi­nona Ry­der and Sean Astin worked.

Lucy Lu’s Cof­fee Cafe opened down­town in 2017, about a year af­ter the first sea­son’s re­lease. Within months, the cafe had cre­ated a “Stranger Drinks” menu. Pop­u­lar bev­er­ages in­clude the Sher­iff Hop­per, a hazel­nut and vanilla cof­fee drink, and the De­mogor­gon, a frappe with blood-red food col­or­ing named af­ter the mon­ster that ram­pages through Hawkins.

Head barista Jayci Fitz­mayer said the menu has been a hit with vis­it­ing fans and lo­cals.

“A lot of our reg­u­lars get the Stranger Drinks too,” Fitz­mayer said. “They love that they can be a part of that too be­cause, just like us, they didn’t think that our town was any­thing spe­cial un­til this came out.”

Lucy Lu’s had one of its best days a cou­ple weeks af­ter the third sea­son came out, Fitz­mayer said. The shop brought in $1,200 in net sales July 19, dou­bling its daily av­er­age.

“It’s al­ways hard to tell when any­body starts a busi­ness if it’ll do good or not, but I think this has def­i­nitely helped us out,” Fitz­mayer said.


Above: Ethan Cur­tis, a 10-year-old “Stranger Things” fan from San An­to­nio, eyes the Stranger Drinks menu while sip­ping on a Sher­iff Hop­per spe­cialty drink at Lucy Lu’s Cof­fee Cafe in Jack­son, Georgia. Be­low: Fans snap pho­tos of Gwin­nett Place Mall in Du­luth, Georgia, where parts of sea­son three of “Stranger Things” was filmed.

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