Thank Heaven
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7-Eleven Sells Its Own Wine and More Fun Facts About America's First Convenience Store

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Thank Heaven
RiverNorthPhotography/istockphoto

Thank Heaven

Few stores are more ingrained into the fabric of American culture than 7-Eleven. Yet for all of its ubiquity and history, the world's largest convenience store chain still hides some fascinating facts unknown to even its most loyal customers. So the next time you make a run for a Big Gulp and bag of Doritos at 4 a.m., keep these facts in mind. (Looking for more from your convenience store? See what these unique spots offer.)

It Started With a Guy Selling Groceries From an Ice Dock
7-Eleven

It Started With a Guy Selling Groceries From an Ice Dock

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.

Related: 10 Things You Didn't Know About America's First Self-Service Grocery Store

The Store Was Originally Called Tote’m
7-Eleven

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
winhorse/istockphoto

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 December 2019, 7-Eleven operated more than 70,000 stores in 17 countries around the world, including more than 20,000 in Japan. By comparison, there were about 38,700 McDonald's locations in operation around the world in 2019 and some 30,000 Starbucks locations.

Related: What McDonald's and Other Fast Food Chains Looked Like When They First Opened

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 such store to offer ATM services to its customers.

Related: Road Trippers Go Out of Their Way for These 32 Convenience Stores

Slurpee
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.

Related: From Mongolia to McDonald’s: The History of the Hamburger

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 coined the term "brain freeze" to communicate the painful joy of drinking a frozen Slurpee.

Red Wine
Instants/istockphoto

7-Eleven Launched Its Own 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 to America 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

… and Today the Company Has Several Private Brand Wines in Operation
7-Eleven

…and Today the Company Has Several Private Brand Wines in Operation

In 2009, 7-Eleven in the U.S. and 7-Eleven Japan partnered to create and simultaneously 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 premium-priced option.

… And Even Has Its Own Canned Wine Brand
7-Eleven

…And Even Has Its Own Canned Wine Brand

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

7-Eleven Produces Around 1,500 Private Brand Items
7-Eleven

7-Eleven Produces Around 1,500 Private Brand Items

7-Eleven produces approximately 1,500 private brand items and expects sales of these proprietary packaged beverages, foods and non-food items to top $1 billion this year. Brands include Skýra Icelandic spring water, 7-Select Replenish sports drink and Quake energy drinks, and the award-winning 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 Per 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 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 400 cities, giving approximately 35 million households in the U.S. access to over 3,000 items from grocery staples and over-the-counter medicine to beer and wine in participating markets. 7NOW orders are delivered in about 30 minutes, however, demand may impact delivery times.

7-Eleven Is Currently Testing a Cashierless Store
7-Eleven

7-Eleven Is Currently Testing a Cashierless Store

This year, 7-Eleven began testing a cashierless store at its corporate headquarters in Irving, Texas. During the pilot, the 700-square-foot non-traditional 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.

Related: These Stores Are Getting Rid of Cashiers and Checkout Lanes

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 44 states to allow cash payments of taxes up to $1,000 per 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 since 2000, 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.

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. Due to the current pandemic, the company announced that they will not be celebrating 7‑Eleven Day this year, but they did send a free medium Slurpee coupon to all users of their 7REWARDS application on July 1 to be redeemed at any time during the month.

Related: Food Holidays Calendar: When to Find Savings in 2020

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, their sushi is delivered daily and includes ingredients like chicken teriyaki and cooked tuna. Reviews are mixed.

Related: The Best Sushi Restaurant in All 50 States

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
hamyrissalgueiro/istockphoto

The Slurpee Capital of the World is Winnipeg, Canada

They sure do love their Slurpees in Manitoba. The 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?