How did convenience stores get started?

A convenience store in El Paso, Texas.

They're part of the local landscape in just about every American city, and for most of us, a part of our daily routine. But just when and where did convenience stores get their start?

The National Association of Convenience Stores gives credit to the Southland Ice Company in Dallas, Texas.

Back in 1927, the company's ice dock, located in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, was open for 16 hours a day, seven days a week. So the manager decided to start selling things like milk, bread and eggs to pick up customers who needed things when other stores were closed.

Just after World War II, in 1946, Southland launched a chain of stores in Texas, calling them 7-11, because they operated from 7 in the morning until 11 at night.

Around-the-clock convenience stores began accidentally in the 1960s when a 7-11 store in Austin was flooded with football fans after a University of Texas game. The store couldn't close because there were so many customers.

Southland soon decided to open up its first “24-7 store” in, appropriately enough, Las Vegas, Nevada.

In most places, convenience stores that are always open have only been around since the 1970s.

Now, there are more than 154,000 convenience stores across the U.S. that do more than half a trillion dollars in business each year.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off