Looking Back: Oh Thank Heaven for Our Neighborhood Convenience Store

So Many Stores, So Few People

People sometimes ask me what San Jose was like in the 1960s and 1970s.  My usual reply is that much of it is the same, except with less than half the population, more grocery stores, and everyone drove classic cars with plenty of parking everywhere.  It seems strange that we had so many grocery stores for fewer people, but these were the days before so many "big box" stores like CostCo, Target, and Walmart.  Near my house we had Safeway (Almaden Road), King Bee (Lincoln and Curtner), Lincoln Lanes #2 (Almaden Road and Koch), two PW's and a Luckys on Foxworthy Road, Arnone's (Malone Road), and Alpha Beta (Bird Ave.).  Of the nine grocery store locations, five of them are gone.

In addition to these stores, we had a 7-Eleven.  I remember when it was being built at the entrance to our neighborhood about 1970 or so.  As a "convenience" store it certainly was convenient, as that meant that kids weren't as compelled to make the hazardous trek to the shopping center across the Almaden Expressway. Though our house was located on the opposite side of the neighborhood, I got so that I could speed down on my bike and back without my mom noticing (except for once, which resulted in a grounding).

A visit to 7-Eleven typically resulted in the acquisition of such fine merchandise as baseball or football cards (at 10 cents a pack, including flat gum), balsa wood gliders (about 25 cents), rubber parachute men (10 cents), psychedelic super balls (10 cents from a vending machine), a handful of Swell bubble gum (1 cent each), and a 16 oz. bottle of Dr. Pepper (about 35 cents plus a dime deposit).


I have many happy childhood memories of our 7-Eleven.  My mom would let me return any empty soda bottles, so I would challenge myself to carry four six packs (one under each arm) without stopping until I reached the store. They weren't that heavy, but the cardboard edges would dig into your fingers and sides. At 10 cents for each bottle, I usually received $2.40 which went a long ways.  On a couple of occasions I purchased a full box of Lifesavers candy and handed out rolls to friends at school.  I guess my favorite memory would have to be the time the owner let me and my friends go inside the cooler to restock soda during a hot summer day.  We had a great time until we had to come back out (felt like entering a sauna!).  I still live in the neighborhood and the old store is still there, having been remodeled once after a fire.  It's changed a bit since the old days, but still just as convenient.


7-Eleven was founded in 1927 by Southland Ice Company employee John Jefferson Green. He began by selling eggs, milk, and bread from the company's ice house storefronts in Dallas, Texas.  The stores were eventually named Tote'm Stores. The company survived the Great Depression, and after World War II, the company's name was changed to 7-Eleven to reflect the stores hours of operation. Today, 7-Eleven Inc. is a Japanese-American international chain of convenience stores with its headquarters in Dallas, Texas.  Seven-Eleven Japan Co., Ltd has been its parent company since 2005, operating, franchising, and licensing 68,236 stores in seventeen countries as of June 2019.

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