If you've never been, it's worth the stop. If you've been, then you have experienced one of the fun places off I-90 in Wall, South Dakota. The Wall Drug Store is an institution in South Dakota. It was established as a regular pharmacy known as the Wall Drug Store in 1931. Wall is just a small western town in the high plains and like most small stores of the time was family owned and operated.
As the story goes, Ted Hustead, a pharmacist, bought the original drug store in the 231-person town of Wall. As one can imagine, making a living with a drug store in an isolated town "in the middle of nowhere" with a population of only 231 was a challenge. Hustead's wife, Dorothy, suggested that they advertise free ice water for travelers going to the recently opened Mr. Rushmore in the Black Hills, about 60 miles to the west. So, Ted Hustead made up small roadside signs and he drove east and west on the two lane Rt. 16A (there was no I-90 in those days) putting signs advertising "Free Ice Water" and leading to the store. By the time he got back to the store there were people lined up and Dorothy was having a hard time keeping up with the demand. That was in 1936.
Since that time Wall Drug Store has evolved into a tourist shopping mall including a cafe that serves western style vittles, gift shops, exhibits, a museum, a chapel and other attractions among other things. And, yes, they still give away "free ice water." On a busy summer day the Wall Drug Store will hand out as many as 20,000 glasses of ice water today. They also have regular customers including military personnel from Ellsworth Air Force Base, doctors, priests, truck drivers and other travelers. Wall Drug Store is another story of the great American Spirit, some-out-of-the-box, creative thinking and pure grit and determination. Ted and Dorothy Husteads' legacy lives on through their son, Bill.