It Started With An Observant Employee
In 1927, an employee named Jefferson Green came up with an idea. He worked for an ice company and noticed that people needed groceries on the weekends. Unfortunately, the things they needed like milk, bread and eggs were only available in the good stores and those stores were closed on Sundays.
Jefferson Green, also known as "Uncle Johnny" decided to start selling products the customers needed the most from the local ice store. This was back when milk was less than 75 cents and ice was sold in blocks for ice boxes instead of bags for beer cups.
The supplies were available to the public even on sundays. One of the founders of the company, Joe C. Thompson,Jr., noticed the efforts of his employee and decided to expand on the service that was creating a convenience for the people of an area in Dallas, Texas called Oak Cliff:
At the time of this small expansion, The Southland Ice Company only had eight ice plants and 21 retail ice docks. The service being provided was doing so well that the company was able to increase their size to 60 retail locations in less than ten years.
Additional Services Were Added
In 1928, the company started selling gasoline (can you imagine how great the prices for gas were then?) because automobiles were becoming more common. So far, thinking of what their customers wanted was working because things were going well and the people they offered their services to were happy to be able to get the things they needed.
When 1936 rolled around, there were what we would now consider a parking lot and there was plenty of space between the store and the road to let people drive in and out comfortably Products added to the inventory now included staples, canned goods, watermelon and alcohol. Since this was around the time of the Prohibition, the services offered to customers became even more appealing and with the sell of alcohol the company was doing quite well and sales only increased after the depression.
Before It Was 7-Eleven...
The stores were originally called "Tote'm" because you could carried your purchased goods out in a bag. The company decided to change the name to something more convenient (pun intended) and decided to call their new chain of stores "7-Eleven" which gave the customers the hours and the name all in one. The store hours were from 7am until 11pm, 7 days per week. This change took place in 1946.
By 1963 there were 1,000 locations in different parts of the United States because of the increase in cars and consumer needs.
How 7-Eleven Became A 24-Hour Store
There was a football game in a small town in Austin, Texas that went into overtime. People were hungry and found the store open and there were so many customers that the store stayed open all night.
Sales were so good that the rest of the chains decided to stay open all night on the weekends. The stores realized they could be even more convenient and decided to stay open all night every night of the week.
Since the 1990's when there was a demand for healthier high quality foods, 7-Eleven has built their own bakeries and have products freshly delivered. It's gone from an ice store that sold bread, milk and eggs to a chain of thousands of stores that offer slurpees, doughnuts, fresh coffee, cigarrettes and an almost endless list of snacks and other items.
There are so many locations that those driving at night in an area they're not familiar with have a lot of faith in 7-Eleven because they know there's got to be one nearby where they can stop in for a slice of pizza and ask for directions.
There are even RedBox machines outside when couples want to make it a movie night and helful employees that are usually able to remember your name (since you've been visiting the store so frequently). Even with the expansion through all the years, the stores are usually small and give customers a feeling like they're in a "mom and pop" store.