San Jose Liquor Store Sells $141-Million Lotto Ticket

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The owner of the small San Jose liquor store where Saturday's winning Lotto ticket was bought basked in unexpected attention Sunday--although the winner of the largest single-state jackpot in U.S. history had not surfaced.

Alex Wang will receive about $705,000--or half of 1% of the total jackpot--if the winning ticket is confirmed, according to lottery officials.

"I couldn't believe it, but it looks like it's true," said Wang, a 58-year-old Taiwanese immigrant, after he was informed that the ticket had been purchased at his store.

Indeed, the phones were ringing off the hook at Union Avenue Liquors--calls to Wang from friends and total strangers congratulating him.

"It was weird to have [the winner] here," said Wang's only employee, 22-year-old Tom Hood. "Most of the winners are down in L.A. That's what we were expecting."

The purchaser, who was the only person to pick all six winning numbers--3, 22, 43, 44 and 45 and Mega number 8, has 180 days to claim the $141-million jackpot, according to lottery officials.

Wang, the father of two daughters attending college, said he did not know how he would spend the money, though he told Hood--an employee for four years--about possibly investing in real estate.

Lotto fever was widespread. By 7 p.m. Saturday, about 84,000 tickets were being sold per minute throughout the state.

It was no different at Wang's Union Avenue Liquors, the small store in Cambrian Park, an upper middle class neighborhood in San Jose. Between Thursday and Saturday evening, Wang and Hood sold 12,000 tickets.

Though they were pleasantly surprised at having sold the winner, the long lines that had snaked out of their store did not surprise them.

"We . . . . have done it before," Hood said.

Wang has owned the liquor store for 27 years. He emigrated from Taiwan to New York City when he was 18. He moved to San Jose in his late 20s and opened the liquor store and an ice cream shop in Los Gatos, which he sold in the late 1980s.

As they were swamped by media and passersby Sunday, the store owner and employee enjoyed the sudden celebrity.

"We're very popular today," Hood said.

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The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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