It’s amazing what a little product placement — even unexplained and not manufactured for more than 30 years — can do.
Dustin, a nerdy, happy-go-lucky middle-schooler on the wildly popular “Stranger Things,” wore a purple Science Museum of Minnesota hoodie featuring a brontosaurus skeleton in the new season of the Netflix series, which takes place in 1984 and launched Oct. 27.
Social media went crazy and the museum was flooded with calls from fans eager to buy the hoodie, so the Science Museum quickly set in motion manufacturing the apparel again. It turned to Netflix for the art work.
The museum’s online store opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday with purple hoodies and T-shirts for kids and adults, announcing, “The wait is over.”
The nonprofit museum rang up more than $400,000 in brontosaurus apparel sales by late afternoon.
The windfall was not without glitches: Delays were frequent and the website crashed within hours.
Lines quickly formed at the museum store in downtown St. Paul as fans sifted through about 600 garments on the racks and shelves. The hoodies were almost sold out by noon, except for the largest adult sizes.
“This just came out of nowhere,” said Explore Store manager Steve Fegley. “It’s just exploded.”
Silk-screen presses were working overtime to fulfill online orders coming in from around the world, museum spokeswoman Kim Ramsden added. A new shipment was due to arrive at the store Wednesday, said Fegley.
Ramsden believes a few hundred of the hoodies featuring a rendering of the long-necked dinosaur captioned “Thunder Lizard” were sold in the mid-1980s when the museum hosted a traveling exhibit at its old facility on 10th Street. The museum has no file art and few records on hand to draw from.
“Stranger Things” costume designer Kim Wilcox said in the show’s hunt for mid-1980s apparel, “we found a vintage one online.”
“I really loved the brontosaurus for Dusty,” Wilcox said in an e-mail. “So we bought the original, checked with legal, and made our purple hoodie with this great dinosaur art in Gaten Matarazzo’s size,” she said of the actor who plays Dustin.
Aaron Eilers, a fan of the Netflix series, was one of the lucky ones to have a hoodie in hand Tuesday. The Cottage Grove resident tried buying one online, but when his attempts were thwarted, he made the trek down to the museum. He arrived at 8:45 a.m., about 45 minutes before the museum opened for the day. There was one other person waiting in line at the time.
“They let us right in,” Eilers said as he wore his newly purchased 2XL hoodie. “I was going to ask for one for Christmas, but my wife messaged me and said she wanted one, too. I got in and out.”
Things were fairly picked over by the time Brenda Gates, of Blaine, swung by the museum on her lunch hour looking for gifts for grandchildren and nephews and nieces. She found one sweatshirt, but had no luck getting a hoodie. Only sizes 2XL and larger remained on the rack.
Those who shopped online ran into a snags, too, and some were unable to complete their orders, especially during the first few hours that servers were down. Customers were told “we have an unlimited volume of apparel available online; due to high volume you may experience slow system response. Please be patient as we do our best to serve you promptly.”
Once up and running around 10:30 a.m., online shoppers still waited as long as 20 minutes to get through.
“The waiting room was insane,” tweeted Brittany Elyse.
Museum officials are overwhelmed with the response. They knew there was interest but weren’t sure if all the online chatter would translate into sales, and gauging consumer habits is not an exact science.
“If this was 1984, there would have been lines for blocks and if you didn’t get one it would have been too bad,” Ramsden said. With an unlimited supply of hoodies, and the ability to print more, “everybody who wants one will be able to get one, but it just might take some time.”
Prices range from $15 to $40, with proceeds to support the museum’s mission to “inspire learning, inform policy and improve lives.”
It was not immediately clear to which programs the money might be directed.
Along with an unanticipated revenue boost, the museum is hoping the buzz will generate interest in the museum.
“We can’t get over how excited people are. We hope they come back with their family,” Ramsden said. “It’s an exciting day at the museum.”
Wilcox, who was twice nominated for an Emmy Award for costume design for HBO’s “The Sopranos,” is also excited.
“The silver lining is that now the Science Museum gets a big media boost,” she said. “I’m very happy about this!”
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768