1. 7-Eleven started in 1927.
That was when Joe Thompson, an employee of the Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas, began selling eggs, milk, and bread from a makeshift storefront in one of the company’s icehouses. These bare necessities were kept cold thanks to the ice Southland produced, and local residents liked the convenience of avoiding the crowds and aisles of a regular grocery store if they only had to pick up a few items.
Thompson eventually bought out the ice company and started opening convenient little stores all over Texas. Shortly after, a company executive brought a souvenir totem pole back from a trip to Alaska, and set it in front of one of the busiest locations. Soon, the spot had earned the nickname the “Tote’m Store,” not only because of the totem pole, but because customers toted away their purchases. The company officially adopted the name and decorated their locations with an Inuit-inspired theme to match. The name changed to 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect their new store hours—7 a.m. to 11 p.m.—in order to capitalize on the post-World War II economic boom.
2. 7-Eleven's new schedule was unheard of at the time.
No one thought there would be demand for a store that was open 24/7—until one night in Austin in 1962. The local 7-Eleven had seen such a rush of students following a University of Texas football game that they were forced to stay open until dawn the next day. Sensing a trend, the store continued to stay open all night on the weekends, and soon more and more locations adopted the new schedule as well.
3. 7-Eleven is one of the world's largest franchise companies.
They beat out McDonald’s in 2007 and have since outgrown them by about 20,000 stores. Japan is the largest market with more than 20,000 stores under the name “Seven & I Holdings,” the parent company of 7-Eleven since 2005. North America has more than 9800 stores. And the company keeps growing, with a brand new store opening somewhere in the world every two hours of every day.
4. 7-Eleven ran the first television advertisement for a convenience store in 1949.
The ad touted their curbside grocery delivery service, and an animated rooster and owl reminded customers that the store was open early and closed late.
5. The Slurpee was actually invented at a Dairy Queen.
In the late-1950s, Omar Knedlik of Kansas City owned a rundown Dairy Queen. When his soda fountain went on the fritz, he improvised by putting some bottles in the freezer to stay cool. However, when he popped the top, they were a little frozen and slushy. Folks loved them and started requesting "those pops that were in a little bit longer." Realizing he had a surprise hit on his hands, Knedlik built a specialized machine using the air conditioning unit from a car, and cranked out slushy soda by freezing a mixture of flavored syrup, water, and carbon dioxide to make it fizz. He called it an ICEE, but when the drink concept was licensed to 7-Eleven in 1965, the company’s marketing department renamed it the Slurpee after the sound made while sipping it through a straw.
6. Since 2002, 7-Eleven has given away free small Slurpees to celebrate the company's birthday.
On July 11 (7/11), 7-Eleven gives away about 500,000 gallons of Slurpees ... in North America anyway. In Australia, where the ice cold drink is also very popular, Slurpees are given away on November 7 (written Down Under as 7/11) to the tune of about 270,000 gallons.
7. Almost all Slurpee flavors are considered kosher pareve (food that is neither meat nor dairy).
There are a few, such as Diet Pepsi and the Jolly Rancher mixes, that are considered kosher dairy (due to the chemical tagatose in the artificial sweetener), while others, like the popular Piña Colada drink, are not certified at all. Some 7-Eleven stores get the machines themselves certified kosher as a selling point for their Jewish customers.
8. For more than 20 years, the ruling Slurpee capital of the world has been Winnipeg, Canada.
Manitoba has an average of over 188,000 Slurpees sold in five regional stores every month. Winnipeg in particular is known—and celebrated—for its taste for the icy treat. People display their love of Slurpees outside the store, too: Some even have the machines installed for private parties.
9. Since the 2000 presidential election, 7-Eleven has run a promotion called "7-Election."
Customers vote by purchasing special red or blue coffee cups printed with each candidate's name. The cups are scanned at check-out and automatically entered in this unscientific, but surprisingly accurate poll—in 2000 and 2004, the number of coffee cup votes and the number of actual popular votes for both candidates was only off by 1 or 2 percentage points. While 2008's 7-Elections results were still correct, they gave the election to Obama by a landslide—60 percent to 40 percent—when the margin was really only about 7 percent. The trend continued in 2012, as caffeine enthusiasts went blue to the tune of 59 percent for Obama to 41 percent for Romney, while the actual vote wound up being 51 percent to 47 percent. In 2016, 31 percent voted Democrat, 29 percent Republican, and 40 percent opted for the special "Speak Up" (write-in vote) cup.
10. To promote the release of The Simpsons Movie in 2007, 12 7-Elevens in North America were converted to Kwik-E-Marts.
That's the convenience store in Springfield owned by Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. At a cost of about $10 million, the 7-Eleven stores had their exterior signs replaced to reflect the fictitious store name and many of the products inside were modeled after those seen on the show. For example, customers could buy Krusty-O’s cereal, a limited edition Radioactive Man comic book, six packs of Buzz Cola, and even Squishees, the Simpsons version of the Slurpee. Sadly, Homer’s favorite swill, Duff Beer, was not available as the film being promoted was rated PG-13. Instead, they had a Duff Energy Drink with a label very similar to the animated brew. While not all locations were transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, special Simpsons merchandise was available at all 7-Eleven locations, including Homer’s own Woo-Hoo Blue Vanilla Slurpees with collectible straws.
11. 7-Elevens are different all around the world.
In America, we see 7-Eleven as little more than a convenient place to grab a quick cup of coffee before work or a Big Gulp while we’re out running errands. But in other parts of the world, the shops are a lot more important to the local population. In Indonesia, for example, 7-Elevens are more like a hip, upscale coffeehouse where a majority of customers are under the age of 30. The stores offer free Wi-Fi, plenty of tables and chairs inside and out on the sidewalk, and often feature live musical performances. Young people gather there late into the night to socialize, work online, and eat local favorites like fried rice, tiny sandwiches filled with cheese or chocolate called pillow bread, and chicken katsu, a Japanese-style fried cutlet.
In Taiwan, 7-Elevens are more common than Starbucks in Seattle. In the capital city of Taipei, there are more than 4000 locations in a city of 23 million, with many city blocks capable of sustaining more than one location. Aside from purchasing local food and Slurpees, customers can pay credit card and utility bills, book travel arrangements, and buy small electronics like iPods. It’s also not unusual for people to have packages delivered to their closest 7-Eleven instead of their home, because it’s more convenient to pick it up late at night instead of trying to coordinate with a deliveryman. The government has even given into the popularity of the shops by allowing people to pay traffic tickets and property taxes there, and using them as a hub for special programs like health screenings.
A version of this story originally ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2022.