The storied history of arguably the most popular convenient store chain in history – 7-Eleven begins right in the southern portion of Dallas, known as Oak Cliff. Joe C. Thompson Jr., known as “Jodie” was a young 8 year old boy who’s job was to groom and tend the horses and mules that pulled delivery wagons of ice throughout south Dallas. This young Oak Cliff boy would go on to be the founder of a multi-billion-dollar company and create one of the most recognizable brands in history.
Jodie moved up in ranks, from stable boy to loading ice onto wagons, while attending Oak Cliff High School. Jodie soon found himself as a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a business degree, where he was hired at Consumers Ice. In 1927, Consumers Ice was bought out by Southland Ice with Jodie negotiating the buy-out terms. He soon was named Director of the newly formed corporation, The Southland Ice Co.
The Southland Ice Co. dock located on Edgefield and Twelfth, began selling necessities such as milk, eggs and bread; due to grocery stores closing early and Ice Docks being the only businesses open 7 days per week. Jodie loved this Ice Dock/Grocery Store combination he decided to replicate it across Texas, as technology advanced and ice houses were no longer needed as much Jodie focused his attention on the grocery store aspect and soon ice docks across Texas featured grocery store shelves, and as a marketing ploy, decided to order totem poles from Alaska to sit outside of the newly named “Tote’m” stores located in Oak Cliff and San Antonio.
By 1936, Tote’m stores were the #1 dairy retailer in the Dallas region; which led to the creation of Oak Farm Dairies, a branch of Southland Ice Co. As Tote’m continued to grow throughout the ’30s and ’40s and Southland Ice Co continued to buy up ice-docks throughout Texas, they lacked a unifed name. In 1945 Tracy-Locke Co. was hired to come up with advertising and marketing campaigns for their unique icehouse/grocery stores which were open seven days per week from morning until late at night, usually around 11pm. Soon the brand name “7-Eleven” was born and all Southland locations were rebranded to sport the new name 7-Eleven.
By 1950, 80 stores were in operation and even more were being built. Southland continued to dominate local real estate and held numerous slots on radio and television nations advertising their new stores.
They went on to become the first company to sell coffee in paper to-go cups, and the first business to offer a self-serve soda fountain. Dallas-based, E Mitchell Co. invented the Icee machine in 1959, 7-Eleven loved the idea and placed 3 machines in Oak Cliff stores, by 1965 nearly every store had an Icee Machine; however, they were later renamed “Slurpee” for the sound they make when sucked through a straw.
7-Eleven is now a multi-billion dollar business operating more than 60,000 stores across the globe, on 4 continents.