Everywhere you go today it seems there is a convenience store on the corner of an intersection. And 7-11 is the king of the convenience store world. In fact they might even be thought of as the father of the convenience store world considering how old the company actually is. Today the company is a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings Co. of Japan but it wasn’t always so.
7-11 actually got started way back in 1927 in Dallas, Texas by a man named Joe C. Thompson. You see Mr. Thompson who was an employee of the Southland Ice Company had an idea. Back in the days before refrigerators you needed to purchase blocks of ice to keep everything cold. Well Mr. Thompson who happened to work at an ice plant thought that he could make some money by selling basic items like milk, eggs, and bread right from the dock since he had a lot of ice. He focused on convenience items and the fact he was able to keep them cold. This was something that other merchants in the area couldn’t do.
Mr. Thompson’s idea was a success needless to say. So much so that Mr. Thompson was able to buy the Southland Ice Company which he renamed Southland Corporation. Soon he had several locations in the Dallas area. It was because of the hours that his stores kept that the stores were named 7-11 in 1946. For other merchants in the area it was unheard of to open at 7 a.m. and not close till 11 p.m. By 1952 7-11 had opened its 100th store. In 1961 the company incorporated under the name The Southland Corporation.
It was in 1962 that the idea for the 24 hour store was first tried in Austin, Texas. Soon 24 hour stores were established in Las Vegas, Fort Worth, and Dallas. For the next 35 years it was business as usual while the company continued to steadily expand. But in 1987 the company would be dramatically shook up by the stock market crash. That was the year that John Philip Thompson the CEO and son of 7-11’s founder would try a $5.2 billion management buyout. The company had tried to raise high yield debt financing but because of the crash was unable to meet its need. The company was forced to sell part of its stock to attract investors to its bonds.
Within a few years it was on the verge of bankruptcy until it largest franchisee Ito-Yokado bailed it out. Soon though the Japanese company had gained control of 7-11 and all its stores. In 2005 Ito-Yokado formed Steven & I Holdings Co. with 7-11 Inc. as a subsidiary. And although the family that originally formed the company no longer owns it they did create a global icon in the convenience store business. If you say you’re headed to 7-11 everyone knows you’re headed to the corner store. Although today you can buy a little more than milk, eggs, and bread.
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