Wall Drug Is 89 Years Old. But What Made It So Popular?
Anyone who's been on a road trip westward has seen the signs. Heck, they span over 650 miles, all the way from Minnesota to Billings, Montana. It's a brilliant marketing campaign. I remember, while on a long road trip to Oregon as a kid, every time I saw another Wall Drug Store sign, I got more and more excited. By the time we actually made it to the actual spot, I could barely contain myself.
Let's face it, kids aren't always the best long-distance passengers in the car, so anything to distract them can be fun, and the Wall Drug Store signs have been helping families out in that battle for decades. In fact, the Wall Drug has been open for over 89 years now, believe it or not.
What started drawing people to the store in the first place, you might ask? The Giant Dinosaur? The Jackalope? The five-cent coffee? Nope. It was the free ice water.
In 1936, things were looking bleak for Dorothy and Ted Hustead. The U.S. was still in the middle of the Great Depression and the drug store the two had been operating for five years was struggling. In a last-ditch effort, Dorothy decided to place a sign on Route 16 that simply said "Free Ice Water". It worked and thirsty travelers began pouring in, drinking the ice water, and also buying things. Wall Drug Store was saved and has since become an American institution.
It also helped that Mount Rushmore was nearing its completion at that same time. Mount Rushmore officially opened a few years later and Wall Drug started putting up signs everywhere.
Did we mention they have 5 cent coffee? Who's up for a road trip?