Ted Hustead

Quick Facts

South Dakota Businessman
Place of Birth:
Wall, South Dakota
Date of Birth:
May 11, 1951

Ted Hustead was born on May 11, 1951 in Western South Dakota. He has lived nearly all of his life in the small town of Wall. He is the grandson of Ted and Dorothy Hustead, founders of the world famous Wall Drug. Ted, along with other family members, is a co-owner of the drug store. At the time of this interview, Ted was the president of the company and also managed the retail part of Wall Drug. During Ted’s lifetime he saw the construction, operation and deactivation of the Minuteman Missile field in the area.

Mr. Hustead was interviewed for the park's oral history collection in January 2003. Below are several excerpts from his interview:

How would you describe the Wall Drug Store today and can you summarize its history?

Well I would say today it is probably the number one roadside attraction in America. We are in the retail entertainment business. We are now approximately 75,000 square feet. On a busy day in the summertime we can wait on as many as 16,000, 18,000 people. The reason it got to be where it is today is probably Bill Hustead, the second generation, had a huge impact. He came back into the family business in 1951 after just graduating from South Dakota State University with a degree in pharmacy. And he came out with his bride and he had seven children himself out here which he raised and Bill went on a building program, expansion program, that pretty much lasted his whole career and I would say that if you wanted to kind of condense his motivation it was probably he wanted to build a business that his family could be proud of and that he could be proud of. When he was growing up in the business we had outdoor toilets, you know, lots of business, but not a lot of room and the conditions were, you know, the conditions were kind of tough back in the thirties and forties and by the time he got out of school, you know, it was the business that had all the signs, the stores that had all the signs, but, you know, when you get there you have outdoor restrooms and it wasn't a business that he felt that it could be and that's what motivated him over the next forty years. He built the beautiful Art Gallery Dining Room with the largest collection of, private collection of western maybe in the world. And he built the mall and the backyard. He put the traveler's chapel in the mall and the Pharmacy Museum, the historical photos and the 15,000 square foot backyard building. We have nine collections of historical photos that are very exquisite and he was a very talented and romantic man who really was able to put together a business that he felt very good about and is also very well received by the customers that have been coming here for generations.

What are your earliest recollections of the Cold War and
Minuteman missiless coming to the area?

Well I remember, my earliest recollection is, of course, I was only probably about 10 years old, 9 years old. I remember kids that lived in Wall that lived in the dorms that we normally would just use in the summer time they lived in the winter time and we had a few extra kids in my class, but that's about it. Now my brother who's a year older, he had to come down and help my dad at the store with breakfast because we would feed them breakfast and open the store at 4:30 in the morning and pack them lunches. And he would bring my little brother down until his teacher complained that my older brother Rick was falling asleep in class and then they had to quit bringing him to work with them. But we did do a lot of extra food business back in them days and it was probably a pretty good boom for the community and these people fit in well, you know, and there were no problems . . .

Do you feel that any part of your business
expanded specifically because of the missile field?

No. I would have to say that no expansion was on account of anything that happened during the Cold War or the Minuteman missiles or anything. I don't think that it . . . they have never been a target customer of ours. We enjoyed doing business with them, but they're not what really, you know, sustains the Wall Drug Store. We are dependent on the traveling public and not the, you know, air base so much. So I would have to say the impact that they had on us was, again, minimal and, you know, Wall Drug probably, the only thing that I can think of of consequence was we started advertising free coffee and donuts for Minuteman missile, missile crews I think is what we said, which led to free coffee and donuts for truckers, which led to free coffee and donuts for honeymooners and then Vietnam vets. And then when we did free coffee and donuts for Vietnam vets the Korean vets started to complain, the World War II vets started to complain and then we just said the heck with it, free coffee and donuts for all veterans. And I think that that has given us a lot of goodwill over the years and it's also a way for us to payback the veterans who we feel very appreciative to and deserve a free coffee, cup of coffee and a free donut at the Wall Drug Store. But other than that, you know, I would not have to say it might have had an economic impact on this town, but not so much on this business.

Last updated: January 4, 2018