A few weeks ago, I’m driving hundreds of miles across the South Dakota plains, and we spot a sign: “Homemade Pie WALL DRUG.” Not a minute later: “Coffee 5¢ WALL DRUG.”
We keep going. More signs appear: “Western Wear WALL DRUG,” “Homemade Lunch Specials WALL DRUG.” By now, our van of 11 is chanting: Free coffee and donuts for Honeymooners at where? WALL DRUG!
A must-do pit stop. We explore, eat, shop, and pile back in the van. I’d found a coffee mug with all those great signs on it. Woo Hoo! Plus a fridge magnet with the slogan “Free Ice Water.” At the time, I didn’t catch the significance.
In 1931, Ted and Dorothy Hustead bought a drugstore in Wall, South Dakota – population 326. All 326 people were poor; it was the Depression. This Catholic couple felt led to buy this store. With $3000 from his dad, Ted said he would give it five years. In 1936, it had still not taken off, and Dorothy finally said, “Ya know that traffic headed to Yellowstone? We’ve got to figure out how to make those cars stop!”
It was 105° that day. “Let’s offer free ice water!” They thought up the corniest slogans they could, put out signs for Free Ice Water and a Travelers’ Chapel, and people started coming. Then, one day, someone asked, “Can I buy an ice cream cone?” The rest is history. In 2012, they now draw up to 20,000 people on a “good summer day.”
Free Ice Water took the Husteads a long way. They learned that “no matter where you live, you can succeed, because wherever you are, you can reach out to other people with something that they need!” This is marketing 101 at its best.
What blows me away is that the land was desolate and dry; people were poor and disheartened. Is this 1936 or 2012? The Husteads saw the need and met it; they gave water and rest. Though it looked hopeless, they stuck to their vision. People now come from all over the world to see WALL DRUG!
Catch your vision, determine the need, and don’t be afraid to give. These are the foundations of every presentation you deliver, every proposal you write, and every project you design and build.
PS Next time you’re in South Dakota, check out Wall Drug.