'Brain Freeze,' 7-Eleven Wine, and More Fun Facts About America's First Convenience Store



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Thank Heaven

Few stores are more ingrained in the fabric of American culture than 7-Eleven. Still, the world's largest convenience-store chain has some secrets unknown to even its most loyal customers, including a newly launched line of clothing and other merchandise for 7-Eleven fans who, say, want to wear a Big Gulp without having to waste a drop. 

Related: Things You Didn't Know About Convenience Stores

7-Eleven Slurpee Merchandise

Grab Your Favorite 7-Eleven Merchandise

Fans of 7-Eleven can now wear their loyalty on their sleeves — literally. Slurpee and Big Gulp enthusiasts can now find their favorite products emblazoned on short- and long-sleeved T-shirts, along with other merchandise featuring the 7-Eleven brand logos, including hats, totes, fanny packs — even a coffee-scented air freshener — at 7-Eleven's online shop. Starting Thursday, orders placed using the code 7Collection11 get an 11% discount, but hurry, the offer expires Aug. 31.

Water Monitor Lizard, varanus salvator, Adult with Tongue out

Yes, a Giant Lizard Paid a Visit to 7-Eleven in Thailand

Wait, what's that about giant lizards? Anyone who's been in a convenience store late at night has probably seen their fair share of strange characters, but it was broad daylight when a 6-foot lizard decided to chill out in a 7-Eleven near Bangkok. The Asian water monitor — the second-largest kind of lizard in the world — scaled shelves packed with beverages and lingered near the ice machine for more than an hour. No word on whether the valued shopper got a Big Gulp or Slurpee for his trouble.

Related: Amazing Animal Rescues You Won’t Believe

It Started With a Guy Selling Groceries From an Ice Dock

It Started With a Guy Selling Groceries From an Ice Dock

Long before 7-Eleven made it to Thailand, convenience retailing was born in Oak Cliff, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. In 1927, Southland Ice Co. employee "Uncle Johnny" Green started selling milk, eggs, and bread from the ice dock on evenings and weekends when grocery stores were closed. The small retail endeavor was an immediate success and expanded to all the company's ice docks.

The Store Was Originally Called Tote’m

The Store Was Originally Called Tote'm

First called Tote'm Stores because customers literally toted their groceries away, the first convenience store was later renamed 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect its 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours of operation. Some of the original Tote'm stores even featured totem poles out front.

There Are Nearly Twice as Many 7-Elevens in the World as Mcdonald's

There Are Nearly Twice as Many 7-Elevens in the World as McDonald's

In many parts of the world, you don't have to travel far to find a 7-Eleven. As of January 2020, 7-Eleven operated more than 70,000 stores in 17 countries around the world, including more than 20,000 in Japan. By comparison, worldwide there were about 40,000 McDonald's locations in operation in 2020 and some 32,600 Starbucks locations.

The Big Gulp Was Originally Milk-Carton Shaped
Joe Raedle / Staff / Getty Images News / Getty Images North America

The Big Gulp Was Originally Milk-Carton Shaped

The Big Gulp drink, 7-Eleven stores' proprietary 32-ounce fountain cup, is the granddaddy of large-size drinks. First introduced in 1976, the original milk carton-shaped Big Gulp cup nearly doubled the company's fountain business overnight. At the time, it was the biggest cup on the market.

7-Eleven Was the First Convenience Store to Stay Open 24 Hours
7-Eleven Was the First Convenience Store to Stay Open 24 Hours by Spencer Tweedy (CC BY-NC-ND)

7-Eleven Was the First Convenience Store to Stay Open 24 Hours

7-Eleven is home to a number of notable worldwide firsts. Not only was it the first convenience store to stay open 24 hours, it was also the first convenience store to sell gas, as well as the first to offer ATMs.

Slurpee by Like_the_Grand_Canyon (CC BY-NC)

The Slurpee Was Invented by a Kansas Hamburger Stand Owner

7-Eleven stores began selling Slurpee drinks, then called Icees, in its stores in 1965. The frozen, carbonated beverage was first invented in 1959 by a Kansas hamburger-stand owner. Using an automobile air conditioner, he created a sophisticated piece of equipment that would freeze a carbonated soft drink and serve it in a sherbet-like form that could be sipped through a straw.

Free Slurpee from 7-Eleven
Free Slurpee from 7-Eleven by slgckgc (CC BY)

7-Eleven Coined the Term 'Brain Freeze'

The Slurpee name was created in May 1967 during a brainstorming session of the Stanford Agency, 7-Eleven stores' in-house agency. While drinking the product through a straw, agency director Bob Stanford commented that it made a "slurp" sound coming through the straw. In 1994, 7-Eleven trademarked the term "brain freeze" to communicate the painful joy of drinking a frozen Slurpee.

Red Wine

7-Eleven Launched Its Private Brand Wine in 2005 …

The company entered the wine market with its own private-label wine in 2005. Thousand Oaks, a California vintage, was introduced in five varietals: cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot grigio and white zinfandel. Within months, sales of the Thousand Oaks varietals pushed it up to the second-most popular wine at 7-Eleven, only behind mega-brand Gallo. Thousand Oaks is no longer available.

Related: We Tried the Walmart and Target Wines, and These Are the Best

7-Eleven Plot + Point wine

… and Today Has Several Private Brand Wines

In 2009, 7-Eleven in the U.S. and 7-Eleven Japan partnered to create and introduce Yosemite Road wine, the world’s largest convenience retailer’s first foray into global merchandising. 7-Eleven expanded its private brand wine selection in 2017 with the launch of Trojan Horse brand white wines, adding Voyager Point in 2018 as a more expensive option. In 2021, 7-Eleven introduced Plot + Point chardonnay and pinot grigio, packaged in a screw-top carton. 

… And Even Has Its Own Canned Wine Brand

It Even Has Its Own Canned Wine Brand

For on-the-go wine drinkers, 7-Eleven introduced its first canned wine, called Roamer, in 2018. Roamer is available in chardonnay and rose. Though glass bottles still hold the vast majority of wine sales, canned wines sales have surged in the past few years.

7-Eleven Produces Around 1,500 Private Brand Items

7-Eleven Produces About 1,500 Private Brand Items

7-Eleven produces some 1,500 private brand items and sales of these proprietary packaged beverages, foods and nonfood items topped $1 billion last year. Products include Skýra Icelandic spring water, 7-Select Replenish sports drink and Quake energy drinks, and 7-Select GO!Smart organic cold-pressed juices.

Coffee for real
Coffee for real by brionv (CC BY-SA)

7-Eleven Sells More Than 1 Million Cups of Coffee a Day

Of all its proprietary products, 7-Eleven sells more fresh-brewed coffee than anything else — more than 1 million cups each day. Since 2016, 7-Eleven has introduced Rainforest Alliance Certified coffees from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico, Peru, Sumatra, Colombia, as well as an African blend from Ethiopia and Rwanda, all marketed as responsibly grown.

7-Eleven Has Its Own Delivery App
Google Play

7-Eleven Has Its Own Delivery App

Introduced as a test in Dallas-Fort Worth in 2017, the 7NOW delivery app is available in nearly 414 cities, offering consumers more than 3,000 items from grocery staples and over-the-counter medicine to beer and wine in participating markets. Orders are delivered in about 30 minutes, though demand may impact delivery times.

7-Eleven Is Currently Testing a Cashierless Store

7-Eleven Is Currently Testing a Cashierless Store

Last year, 7-Eleven began testing a cashierless store at its corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas. During the pilot, the 700-square-foot nontraditional store is available to 7-Eleven employees. To shop, employees download an app, sign up, check in at the store, shop, and exit. A detailed receipt appears in the app automatically after the customer exits.

You Can Pay Your Taxes (in Cash) At 7-Eleven
Marla D./Yelp

You Can Pay Your Taxes (in Cash) At 7-Eleven

In recent years, the IRS has partnered with retailers, including 7-Eleven, in the 50 states and Puerto Rico to allow cash tax payments up to $1,000 a day. How does it work? After the IRS verifies your identity, you receive an email with a link to your payment code and ask the clerk to either scan or enter your code upon payment.

7-Eleven Has Hosted Informal Polls During Presidential Election Years
John T./Yelp

7-Eleven Has Hosted Informal Polls During Presidential Election Years

Every four years from 2000 to 2016, 7-Eleven has hosted an informal "7-Election" poll where customers make their party preferences known by choosing different colored coffee cups either blue for Democratic or red for Republican. In recent years, the company has also offered a third nonpartisan purple "Speak Up" cup that urges costumers to discuss issues that are importance to them. The company skipped the poll in 2020, citing an "unprecedented and financially challenging year for customers," but it isn't ruling out a return in 2024.

7-Eleven Free 7.11oz Slurpee on the Happy 7/11 Day 2012
7-Eleven Free 7.11oz Slurpee on the Happy 7/11 Day 2012 by Majiscup Paper Cup Museum 紙コップ美術館 (CC BY-NC-ND)

The Company Gives Away an Estimated 9 Million Slurpees on 7-Eleven Day

7-Eleven Day is an annual promotional holiday held by the company every July 11 in which the retailer offers free small Slurpees from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time. Past years have also included special deals on other items like hot dogs, pizza slices, and yes, Slurpee-flavored cookies. The company suspended celebrations in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic but revived it for 2022 to celebrate the 95th anniversary of the company's founding.

7-Eleven Sells Some Unique Items … Like Sushi
Olivia E./Yelp

7-Eleven Sells Some Unique Items … Like Sushi

7-Elevens vary greatly depending on the location where they operate, with certain items tailored to the local market. In other words: Yes, you can buy sushi at certain 7-Eleven locations. According to 7-Eleven Australia, its sushi is delivered daily and includes ingredients like chicken teriyaki and cooked tuna. Reviews are mixed.

7-Eleven Has Its Own Mascot in Taiwan (And It Recorded an Album)
7-Eleven Has Its Own Mascot in Taiwan (And It Recorded an Album) by 玄史生 (CC BY)

7-Eleven Has Its Own Mascot in Taiwan (And It Recorded an Album)

Described as "a dog who comes from the Open planet and who loves to eat onigiri," 7-Eleven mascot Open Chan was introduced in Taiwan in 2005 as the "first cartoon spokesperson in the convenience retailing industry of Taiwan." He also reportedly has his own music album, as well as some pretty sweet dance moves.

The Slurpee Capital of the World is Winnipeg, Canada

The Slurpee Capital of the World is Winnipeg, Manitoba

They sure do love their Slurpees in Manitoba. The cap Canadian province's capital city of Winnipeg has been the company's No. 1 market in the world for Slurpee sales for the past several years, with the greater Detroit area coming in for a strong second place. Is your city next?