Why Is 7-Eleven Open 24 Hours If It’s Called “7-Eleven”?

Not that we're complaining!

It’s a national staple, with its iconic logo and headline-making food items. If you’re a fan of 7-Eleven, you might have wondered where the name comes from. It rhymes, and it’s catchy, but is it accurate?

Intuitively, it seems like “7-Eleven” must be called that because those are the hours that it’s open. But most 7-Elevens are open 24 hours, making its name seem like a bit of a misnomer (for the better, though, to be sure)! How did 7-Eleven get its name?

Well, as you might have predicted, those were once the hours 7-Eleven was open. And they did indeed give 7-Eleven the name it has today—but that wasn’t always its name.

The origins of 7-Eleven

7-Eleven began as, of all things, an ice house, in the early 20th century before refrigeration was widespread. Several ice companies merged to form Southland Ice Company, based in Dallas, Texas. In 1927, they began selling food and other staples. They actually went bankrupt due to the Great Depression, but then came back better than ever. With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, food and drink establishments could now make dough selling alcohol, and Southland Ice locations were no exception. Sure enough, they gained prominence. Decorating their storefronts with totem poles, they became known as “Tote’m Stores,” invoking the way customers would “tote” their purchases out of the store. This was long before they introduced the beloved Slurpee; it made its debut in 1965! By the way, these are the things 7-Eleven hasn’t told you about the Slurpee.

New hours

It was 1946 when they changed their name to reflect their new, expanded hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. And the new “7-Eleven” name was “honest,” so to speak, for 17 years! The store expanded greatly in the coming years, beyond Texas and throughout the United States. But it was a Texas location—Austin, to be exact—that pioneered the 24-hour change. In 1963, a single Austin location spurred the shift by remaining open all night to accommodate nearby college students. It was a roaring success, so other locations began to do the same. The name remained, though, paying tribute to the early days of the brand. Next, learn how 10 more of your favorite stores got their names.

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Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a Staff Writer for RD.com who has been writing since before she could write. She graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and has been writing for Reader's Digest since 2017. In spring 2017, her creative nonfiction piece "Anticipation" was published in Angles literary magazine.