Imagine traveling across South Dakota in the 1930s. Most travelers would have come to this area to see the Badlands and Black Hills. In between those two attractions would have been plenty of open space. If you owned a business along this barren drive, you would have struggled to draw in visitors. In 1931, Ted Hustead purchased a small drug store in the town of Wall. He quickly discovered that drumming up business, in a town of 230 people, came as quite the chore. It would be his wife, Dorothy, who would offer the suggestion that helped them corner the market.
Creating a Maze of Activity
Wall, South Dakota is home to the “geographical center of nowhere”. During our Epic Road Trip, we marked this stop as a good break after our visit to Badlands National Park. It was still early enough that the town hadn’t fully opened. That was okay with us, as we had visited Wall Drug with our kids on a previous trip. The memories of that stop had faded, so we were surprised to be reminded of the size of this unique attraction. No longer focusing on merely being a drug store, this place has expanded to include just about anything a traveler would want.
Corner the Market
This oversized tourist attraction has its claim to fame tied to ice water. You can imagine those early travelers becoming road weary on their drive across the plains. Dorothy’s idea was to offer “free ice water” to fatigued tourists. Of course, you have to get the word out for an idea to work. They did this by incorporating signs placed all along the routes that lead to Wall. Before long, the billboards would be found for hundreds of miles in all directions. They have also incorporated the use of free bumper stickers, which act as traveling billboards. By the time we made our first visit to Wall Drug, they were claiming that 200,000 cups of water were being dispensed annually.
Take It Outside
As times have changed, the owners have had to adapt to retain their corner of the market. Knowing that many of their visitors have children in tow, they have worked to increase the options that are family-friendly. The addition of the “Backyard” area are geared toward experiences for kids of all ages. Guests will find an arcade, fossil shop, kid’s store, and they can even pan for gold or gemstones. We discovered there are also plenty of opportunities for some interesting selfies.
Quick Break from the Road
Our Epic Road Trip was well into the second day and we were finding plenty of unusual stops to explore. Wall Drug has plenty to offer travelers looking for a break from the road. While we didn’t need the services of the on-site restaurants, we did enjoy perusing the shops. We even found some souvenirs from other stops that we had overlooked. That alone made this stop a win for us. Even if you aren’t looking for anything to add to your purchases, it’s still a fun place to take in. You can also grab a free cup of ice water to quench your thirst.