Beyond the Build


Range Anxiety

For the last 25 years or so, I have taken some time each fall to head out to Buffalo Gap, South Dakota, to chase those multicolored birds around the prairie, the swamps and the millet. In reality, hunting is just the excuse. The real trip is to visit with my long time rancher friends, enjoy some good wine and see some wonderful vistas and beautiful sunsets. I always try to visit a new place or two.

This year we took a side trip to Wall Drug located next to what is now Interstate 90. The drugstore opened in 1931, in a town that would give most of us a new definition of rural. The Hustead family waited five long years, hoping the customer base would pick up, but it never did. About that time, Mt. Rushmore was opened and cars started streaming westward to view, all in the sweltering summer heat. Dr. Hulstead’s wife came up with a last ditch effort to save the business: Why not offer free ice water to anyone who stopped? Thanks to some clever signs, the initiative worked. The store has since become a landmark of its own, the ice water all but forgotten.

These days, the Wall folks may have found a new “ice water.” Rumor is that Tesla is considering a charging station at Wall Drug to reduce “range anxiety,” which is the fear of traveling too far away from an electric charging station. So while we live in a world of increasing change, sometimes we are just looping back around to serve the needs of our customers in ever better ways.

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Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.