Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wall Drug Store; A Store as a Destination?

Location: Sleepy Hollow Campground (el. 2,850 ft); Wall, South Dakota

(click pictures to enlarge)
(all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

Yesterday was moving day and I arrived here at Sleepy Hollow shortly after noon. The weather was great with temperatures in the lower 70's with a nice breeze blowing. The park is nice and located close to downtown. 
One of my neighbors is in a multi-colored camper. At first I thought, "old hippies from the 60's", but then a younger couple (mid 30's) with two kids got out. Hmmm,,, I hope I have an opportunity to talk with them to get the story of the trailer.  

I haven't had a decent sunset picture in a while and this was the best I could get while in Black Hawk. 

It's not great, but hopefully there will be some better ones ahead. 

There were two reasons that I stopped in this town; explore the Badlands and see the Wall Drug Store. It sounds strange to stop just to see a store. Maybe that would apply to the Mall of America or something big and fancy like that, but this is a drug store in a small town in South Dakota. I had heard and read about Wall Drug for a long time and wanted to see it for myself. I'm not sure if I would have stopped for it by itself, but since the Badlands are within a few miles, it was a no-brainer.

The story of the drug store starts in December, 1931 when a young druggist and his wife are considering the purchase of a drug store in Wall, South Dakota (population 326). 
Those 326 were mostly poor farmers that were just barely getting by as the great depression was beginning. There was no interstate highway like today and Mount Rushmore was not completed, so there were very few tourist passing through. But, after praying about it, the couple bought the store and with their son, moved into the living quarters behind the store. Times were tough and business was practically non-existent. It was the middle of a hot summer in 1936 when the wife came up with an idea. That idea was Ice Water, something of which they had a lot. She had been seeing people drive by the store and town without stopping so she had her husband put a few signs along the highway saying "Free Ice Water, Wall Drug". By the time he returned to the store after putting up the signs, the lines had formed. Business grew immediately. Before the summer was over, they had to hire 8 employees just to meet the customer demand. 

They still have free Ice Water today along with some real good coffee for a nickel. The store has grown and now occupies what looks like a little more than one city block. There are about 2 more city blocks of free parking lots. They have a little bit of everything for sale along with a cafe. On a good summer day 20,000 people show up. 
You know it is a big place when
they give you a map as you
enter the place.
I was one of those 20,000 yesterday afternoon when I went to see the place and get something to eat. I tried taking pictures of the inside but it was so crowded with people it was difficult. I ordered a buffalo burger with onion rings and a piece of cherry pie. The burger and pie was great but the onion rings were just so-so. I also got a donut on my way out. It was what I would call an "old-fashioned" or "cake donut". It was light and tasted great. 

I wandered around a little bit looking at stuff as well as people watching. It was an experience and I am glad I went.   

I will visit the Badlands today and I may stop at the Drug Store on the way because I hear they have some pretty good biscuits and gravy. :)

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

1 comment:

  1. Wall Drug as a destination? How else are you going to get the "Wall Drug" bumper sticker?