Monday, July 11, 2011

7-11's Free Slurpee Day celebrates an American tradition

Mark your calendars, America: Monday, July 11, is Free Slurpee Day at 7-Eleven. To commemorate its 84th birthday, the convenience store chain plans to give away 5 million free Slurpees to hot, thirsty people at over 8,600 locations in North America in an event officially known as 7-Eleven Day.

One might think that giving away so many free Slurpees would put a dent in 7-Eleven's bottom line, but according to the company, they sell enough Slurpees each year to fill 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools. It sounds like they can afford it.

The free Slurpee tradition began in 2002 with 7-Eleven's 75th birthday , but for most of us, the personal tradition of shopping there goes back much further. Indeed, 7-Eleven is part of our social fabric, a concept uniquely American yet shared with the rest of the world at over 41,000 global locations.

As a matter of fact, I lived near the very first 7-Eleven in the world. It was located on the corner of 12th Street and Edgefield in the north Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Back in the 1920s, it was an ice house , until the owner decided to start selling groceries as well. It was open late and on weekends, a rarity for the time, and the convenience store was born. It was a popular location for kids, with Greiner Junior High School located across the street. It eventually closed in the mid-1990s, and now houses a LULAC education center. Today, few people even know the small, unassuming building was the start of a multinational company still based in Dallas.

As a kid growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, my 7-Eleven experiences were like most people my age. Our corner store was only a few blocks away by bicycle, and during the summer, it was the hub for social activity for neighborhood kids. We would ride there on a Saturday, pick up a comic book and a pack of baseball cards, and play video games.

A 7-Eleven was located across the street from my high school, and after two-a-day football practices, we would all stop in for Big Gulps. If you were smooth enough, you could run over between classes or during lunch, where only the bravest would dare to mix the Slurpee flavors into one cup and suck down the icy awesomeness.

7-Eleven Day may be about free Slurpees, but it also celebrates how a simple business idea changed all of our lives. Think about it: Without 7-Eleven, we would all probably be standing in a checkout line right now.

Like millions of other Americans, I'll be there Monday, thanking 7-Eleven for the free Slurpee. And the great memories.

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