Tickets from lucky town

Saturday, February 1, 2003

HURRICANE, W.Va. -- C&L Super Serve, the store that sold Jack Whittaker a $315 million Powerball ticket, has been especially lucky lately.

The store also sold a ticket worth $100,000 in Wednesday's drawing. And now people from all over the country are trying to get a piece of the store's special magic.

"A woman from Arizona mails us money every week and we send her tickets," clerk Emily Johnston said Friday.

The latest winner, 45-year-old Barbara Newhouse, said she had gone to C&L to buy hamburger buns, realized it was the store where Whittaker won, and thought, "'What the heck!" She bought the Powerball ticket along with the buns.

"You'll always have people just like Barbara Newhouse that think, 'Wow, this is the place that sold the winning ticket so I think I'll play' or think there's some magic in playing at a certain location," state Lottery Commission spokeswoman Nancy Bulla said Friday.

Johnston said she had to ask two women from Georgia to leave after they showed up at the store one day at 5 a.m. and staked out the parking lot, hoping to meet Whittaker.

"They tried to attack another guy wearing a black hat just like Jack's," biscuit maker Brenda Higginbotham added with a chuckle.

Whittaker, who still wears that trademark black cowboy hat, comes into the store every day, said Jill Caserta, the clerk who sold him the Christmas Day ticket that made him the largest single jackpot prize winner in history.

"He bought $134 worth this morning," she said Friday.

More than double

Since word got out about Whittaker's jackpot, Caserta said, business has more than doubled, particularly on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the Powerball drawing is held.

"Since 6 a.m., I have sold $363," Caserta said at about 9 a.m. Friday. "Usually, it would be maybe $30."

Bulla said the store's average weekly ticket sales have increase from about $600 before Whittaker hit the jackpot to about $1,500.

"Sometimes it's kind of hard to get in here," said Bob Sovine, a regular customer and a regular Powerball player.

Customers can't help but notice the store's newfound fame.

A large cardboard presentation check for $100,000, the store's share of Whittaker's winnings, hangs above the cash register and a framed newspaper article about the jackpot hangs between the entrance and exit doors.

Bulla, the lottery spokeswoman, said the "luck of the draw" has spread beyond C&L to the entire state. West Virginia has sold 12 $100,000 Powerball tickets in the last two months. Typically, there is only one about every two months.

"People think that if they come to West Virginia their chance of winning will be enhanced," Bulla said. "The reality, of course, is that it makes no difference."

"But if they want to believe that, that's just fine with us because it pays off at the cash register."

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