Traditional and new age businesses both have a place in South Dakota

Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 5:18 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - In 1931, at the start of the dust bowl and arguably the worst possible time to start a business, one of South Dakota’s most iconic small businesses was about to take off.

Wall Drug has withstood the test of times and has been an example of a thriving business in South Dakota, and it all started with Ted and Dorthey Hustead attracting customers by advertising free ice water on a sign.

“If one sign had that kind of impact, what would 20 or 30 signs do?” questioned Rick Hustead, chairman of Wall Drug.

91 years later and Wall Drug signs are still the company’s main source of advertising and can be found all over the world.

However, a business standing for nearly a century has seen a few setbacks.

“There had been challenges during the history of the store,” stated Hustead.

Hustead explained some of those challenges include operating the store during a gas shortage, a pandemic, and several recessions, but it’s their business plan and adaptability that’s gotten the store through these hard times.

Hustead added he’s grateful to be open in a business-friendly state.

“I love South Dakota. It’s a beautiful state, with wonderful people. I think the best state in the country to have a small business. The people in South Dakota have a great work ethic,” said Hustead.

While Wall Drug remains an iconic destination, one business newer to the state sees that same South Dakota work ethic.

“I think that’s what was really unique about this opportunity, about coming here. We know that there is a very special breed of people here in the area that are hardworking, they’re gritty, they’re intelligent,” said Ray Hespen the CEO and co-founder of Property Meld.

Property Meld is a business that started with a bad rental experience and turned into a management maintenance solution for property owners in all 50 states.

Back in 2021, Hespen decided to move the company to South Dakota and created more technology-based jobs in the process.

“I didn’t really get the opportunity to choose to live in a beautiful place like Rapid City and have a great career, a great opportunity,” said the South Dakota Mines alum.

Property Meld also opens the door for other technology companies to see they can thrive in a state traditionally lead by tourism and agriculture industries and thrive.

“If you are a company who’s looking at starting, you know, something technology-based, I think the future business state of South Dakota, and I think we’re hopefully going to be a part of that story, is really showing people that technology has a great home here,” said Hespen.

So whether it’s the tradition or future of South Dakota businesses, both have a home in South Dakota.