As we drove west on our vacation trip, we began seeing signs for Wall Drug. I first saw those signs in the mid 1950s when I was traveling alone in the Western states. I had never heard of Wall Drug and yet saw it advertised hundreds of miles away. They adverted free parking, free ice water, and many other things of interest.
Supposedly, a tree was growing right in the store and through the roof. I found that interesting enough to drive out of my way to visit! I did find the tree right in the store as advertised, and sat under it to enjoy a snack. The store was large and interesting.
After seeing our first Wall Drug sign this trip, I mentioned the signs were not as plentiful and far-reaching as they used to be. Nonetheless, we were traveling I-90 and Wall is right on the road so we decided to stop again.
What a change!
The store had its start in December 1931. With the Great Depression just winding down and the economy still struggling, it probably wasn’t a choice time to open a new business. Yet, a young pharmacist and his wife did just that, taking over a pharmacy that was for sale.
Though they had prayed about it and felt this was God’s leading, the business didn’t grow like they had hoped. They decided to give it five-years. When their fifth summer came around, their business still hadn’t grown much.
But that summer, as they watched traffic passing on the nearby highway, the pharmacist’s wife had an idea! Those travelers had to be parched by the time they passed Wall, South Dakota. Why not offer free ice water?
They did! Travelers appreciated the offer and even asked to have their water jugs filled. This led to enjoying an ice cream cone and casual browsing.
Free ice water put Wall Drug on the map, and the business grew.
Though both the pharmacist and his wife are now deceased, as well as the son who was an infant at the outset of this endeavor, the store remains in the family.
Some things remain the same! I didn’t see Wall Drug signs for hundreds of miles, but I saw enough to remind me to make this stop. You can still enjoy free ice water, even fill your water jug, and an ice cream cone. Along with your nickel coffee, you can still enjoy a slice of pie in the restaurant. (You just can’t sit under the tree in the store any more.)
Why did this business, started in what was described as a “godforsaken place,” eventually thrive? I can only tell you what I see as important to the success – the business wasn’t started on a whim but after intense prayer and seeking God’s leading. I also see perseverance and meeting the needs of others – free ice water!
All of us need to seek God’s leading in life decisions. We also need to offer help to those who have a need like the free ice water. We just need to be open to God’s leading, recognize it, and be willing to follow.
We so easily sing “Where He leads me I will follow …”, but, in reality, are we willing to follow Him? Start by trusting Jesus as Savior. If you don’t know Him, why don’t you make that change today?