If there’s anything 7-Eleven convenience stores are known for, it’s the fact that they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For that reason, you might find the origin of its name rather ironic.
The first store had its start in 1927 when John Jefferson Green began selling eggs, milk, and bread from his Southland Ice House storefront in Dallas, Texas. He did so with the blessing of Southland Ice’s founding director Joe C. Thompson. Thompson would eventually purchase Southland Ice Company (renamed as Southland Corp.) and follow the successful business model Green pioneered with his storefront. When the business began expanding throughout the Dallas area by building gas stations to cater to the rapidly-growing automobile market, Thompson incorporated general merchandise sales with each new station, thus ushering in the age of the convenience store.
The new business became known as Tote’em Stores, and each one could be easily identified by the Alaskan totem pole prominently displayed at every location. The business expanded rapidly, using the Alaska Native American theme for each new site.
Tote’em Stores also came to be recognized by their expanded store hours. By opening for business at 7:00 a.m. and staying open until 11:00 p.m., Tote’em Stores were able to cash in on an increasingly-mobile society that wanted to be able to refuel cars and stomachs outside of normal business hours. When World War II ended and the automobile age arrived with a roar, Tote’em Stores started to be known primarily for its expanded hours of operation. In 1946 the directors of the company decided to cash in on this happy fact and officially changed the name of the franchise locations to reflect their hours of operation. The new business name: 7-Eleven.
Business continued to be favorable under this new name, and all franchise locations eagerly accepted the revenue that flowed in under the unprecedented hours of operation. This continued until 1963, when an Austin, Texas store stayed open all night to accommodate the crowds from a college football game. Business in the after-midnight hours was surprisingly good, so the location remained open on a 24-hour business model as an experiment. Soon that model was replicated in Fort Worth and then in Las Vegas. Eventually, all stores followed suit.
It wasn’t until 1999 that the parent company, Southland Corp., got around to officially changing its name to 7-Eleven, Inc. Ironically, by this time, it was no longer a Dallas-based operation; it had been purchased years earlier by its Japanese affiliate, Ito-Yokado with headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Also, by this point, all 7-Eleven stores were open for business 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As a result, many people scratch their heads over the name 7-Eleven, wondering what it means, never guessing that the cryptic name of the convenience store known for never closing its doors is in homage to the days when the stores were known for being open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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