Wall Drug is a drug store and gift shop that is perhaps one of the greatest self-designated tourist attractions in the United States. The store, which has been described as a sprawling tourist mall, is located in the town of Wall, South Dakota, one of the towns nearest the Badlands National Park.
The small town drugstore made its first step towards international fame when it was purchased by Ted Hustead in 1931. Hustead was a Nebraska native and pharmacist who was looking for a small town with a Catholic church in which to establish his business. He bought Wall Drug, located in a 231-person town in what he referred to as "the middle of nowhere", and strived to make a living. Business was very slow until his wife, Dorothy, got the idea to advertise free ice water to parched travellers along the road. From that time on business was brisk. Wall Drug grew into an enormous cowboy-themed shopping mall/department store (although unlike a standard shopping mall it remained a single store subdivided into many smaller shops and restaurants). Wall Drug includes a western art museum and even a chapel based on the one found at New Melleray Abbey near Dubuque, Iowa. The town grew with it.
Wall Drug earns much of its fame from its self-promotion. Billboards advertising the establishment can be seen for hundreds of miles throughout South Dakota and the neighboring states. In addition, many visitors of Wall Drug have erected signs throughout the world announcing the miles to Wall Drug from famous locations. By 1981 Wall Drug was claiming it was giving away 20,000 cups of water out per day due to its signs, though this number is almost certainly an exaggeration.