Joe C. “Jodie” Thompson’s entrepreneurial spirit was a key factor in turning a Texas ice retailer into one of the world’s most recognizable brands.
While once a successful business in its own right, the Dallas Southland Ice Company suffered and fell into bankruptcy in 1932, due in great part to the rising popularity of home refrigerators. When employee John Jefferson Green suggested the company begin selling household staples like bread and milk in their Texas ice stores, Jodie embraced the idea and the convenience store was born.
Initially known as Tote’m, Thompson’s establishments separated themselves from their competitors in a few small but key ways:
- Company-wide training and uniforms, ensuring the same quality and service at every store
- Gasoline sales
- Evening and Sunday hours
This last distinction is ultimately what led to Tote’m’s success; to promote their then uncommon hours (7am-11pm), all stores were branded as 7-Eleven in 1946.
Jodie Thompson—and later his sons, John, Jere, and Joe Jr.—popularized a retail market that caught on quickly and forever changed how and where people could purchase their essentials. Today, 7-Eleven has more than 56,600 stores in 18 countries. Upon his death in 1961, the Dallas Morning News credited Jodie Thompson with transforming “the ordinary corner ice house from an ice dispensary to a multi-million-dollar drive-in grocery enterprise.”