I am barely old enough to remember 7-Eleven, which departed the Houston market in the 1980s following the Dallas-based company's financial decline in that decade, but I remember the stores being awesome.
Since it left the southern part of the state, 7-Eleven has mushroomed into a multinational corporation with 48,000 stores in 16 countries. Nearly 9,500 of those are here in the United States, but until recently most 7-Elevens were nowhere to be found in many parts of Texas...despite the company's headquarters being located in the state's third-largest city.
Now, however, 7-Eleven has announced its return to the Houston market after a nearly 25-year absence. As Kiah Collier reported in the Houston Chronicle last week, "the Dallas-based chain acquired 143 convenience stores in Texas, including two in Houston, that eventually will be remodeled and re-branded."
The announcement comes after news this summer that 7-Eleven was also re-entering the San Antonio market after leaving that city in 1989. The 7-Elevens in San Antonio are mostly situated along the I-35 corridor and moved into renovated and transformed Tetco stations.
Here in Houston, two Speedy Stop stores will be converted into 7-Elevens, although both are quite a ways outside the Beltway: One at Highway 6 and West Little York Road, the other on Highway 249 close to Willowbrook Mall.
Despite being "just" a convenience store, 7-Eleven's absence has been missed in the intervening quarter century since it left Houston. Icees could be substituted for Slurpees, and 7-Eleven's chili-cheese nachos could be had in better form elsewhere, but there was still a hole in many a Houstonian's hearts that only 7-Eleven could fill.
An online petition to bring the convenience chain back to Houston may have only garnered 323 virtual signatures, but the impassioned rhetoric of the petition spoke for itself:
We feel that 7-Eleven has the best opportunity to become the leading convenience store in Houston, just as you have internationally. We do not understand why there are stores in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio, but none in Houston or the surrounding communities. In fact, the closest store is 103 miles away in Smithville. While we do enjoy your quality products and services, that is a bit too far to travel.
On Facebook, reactions were swift and happy. Wrote fan Nena Lamb: "That made my day!! Slurpees and hot dogs." Added fan Joanie King: "Round-the-clock pump cheese every single day of the year.....I shall rejoice."
Just don't pull an Oklahoma City on us, 7-Eleven. We want our Slurpees back, none of those "Icy Drink Frozen Fun" shenanigans.
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