Thursday, November 29, 2012
First-time lottery player comes away with $1 million in Daleville
Photos by Matt Chittum | The Roanoke Times
"I was excited as if I won myself," said Sam Doura, owner of the Sali Mini Mart in Daleville, which sold the winning ticket worth $1 million.
Doura arrived at work this morning to find a representative from the Virginia Lottery waiting for him with a large banner to hang on his store.
Stephanie Klein-Davis | The Roanoke Times
Amber and Marvin Thompson, with their children six-year-old Hayden and four-month-old Haylee, won $1 million in the Powerball lottery.
Turns out a discount tobacco shop in a weathered strip shopping center is as good a place as any.
Amber Thompson stops by the Sali Mini Mart on U.S. 220 every week for a soda. This week she bought something a little extra. For the first time in her life, she bought a chance at winning the Powerball lottery. The jackpot, at a record $580 million, was too much to resist.
On Wednesday night, Thompson, 29, and her husband Marvin, also 29, watched on television in their Buchanan home as the numbers were drawn.
“I got those!” Marvin Thompson suddenly shouted, waking their 4-month-old daughter, Haylee. One of the tickets matched five of the numbers drawn, meaning it was worth a $1 million.
It’s not the $580 million grand prize to be split by two winners in Arizona and Missouri, but then how can you look down your nose at a million bucks?
“I would have been happy with less,” Amber Thompson said.
The prize isn’t enough to retire on, but it represents an end to a lot of paycheck-to-paycheck struggle and long-term worry.
Amber, who left a longtime job in human resources for a local engineering firm to stay home with Haylee and her brother Hayden, 6, can more comfortably continue that role. Marvin will keep on working as an independent truck driver, and maybe invest in his own business some to build it, he said.
Above all, Amber Thompson said, “It’s going to be for our kids’ education, that’s the most important thing.”
Today, as they posed before news media with the obligatory giant check for their winnings, it all seemed as unreal has had the night before.
“We pretty much just kind of sat there, like, really? Is this real?” Amber Thompson recalled.
"I was excited as if I won myself," said Sam Doura, 47, owner of the Sali Mini Mart, where Amber Thompson bought the winning ticket. In fact he is a winner, too.
He arrived at work this morning to find a representative from the Virginia Lottery waiting for him with large banner to hang on his store.
"I said to myself, ‘I hope I sold a big one,’" he recalled. The banner reads, "We sold a $1 million winner!"
Under the Virginia Lottery’s retailer bonus program, a store that sells a winning ticket worth between $50,000 and $4,999,000 earns a $10,000 reward.
That’s a big boon for Doura and the shop he opened a few years ago and named after his 8-year-old daughter.
Part convenience store, part tobacco specialty shop, Sali Mini Mart has merchandise from Yoo-hoo drinks to hookah pipes.
Doura came to the United States from Syria nine years ago and formerly worked in a shop like his before branching out on his own.
"I started from zero," he said. He works seven days a week.
Selling a big winner is good for business, Doura said. "I’ve been struggling to get my business known."
He had help Thursday as local news outlets took turns interviewing him behind his counter.
He had hoped the winner would be one of his regulars. He knew it wasn’t him, though he bought two tickets himself.
Doura has sold winners before, many of them worth $500, the biggest hitting $1,000.
Maybe word that he sold a $1 million dollar winner will get people thinking his store has a little extra luck – and in turn come in for a ticket and maybe a pack of smokes, a six-pack or Big Mama Smoked Sausage.
"That’s the way I would think," Doura said.