For the owners of a Menifee liquor store, a bad year just got $1 million better.
For the rest of Menifee, the town gossip just got $447.8 million more interesting.
The store, Marietta Liquor & Deli, sold a Powerball ticket that hit a massive jackpot in Saturday night’s drawing. The million-dollar “retailer bonus” it will earn couldn’t come at a better time, as the owner was recently diagnosed with a lung disease.
Until the winner or winners step forward — which could happen as early as 8 a.m. Monday or as late as one year from Saturday — folks will be left to buzz about who the latest Menifee-made millionaire may be.
The winning ticket was the talk of the town Sunday in Sun City, the area of Menifee where the store is located. It’s a retirement community developed in the 1960s that has since become part of Menifee, a city of about 89,000 residents off the 215 Freeway between Riverside and Temecula.
Charlie Gordon, who was sitting in front of a laundromat near the store that sold the ticket, said he had only recently moved here and was excited to live in a small city where a big ticket had been sold.
He said he hopes someone local bought the ticket.
“Hopefully it was a sweet little old lady, someone who really needs the money,” Gordon said.
Store owners ‘in shock’
Matthew Alberre was having fun at his cousin’s high school graduation party Saturday when he got the phone call that would change his family’s fortunes.
“What are you doing right now?” asked a lottery representative on the other end of the line. “Are you sitting down? You might want to step away for a little bit.”
When the caller gave him the news, Alberre, 26, said he asked three or four times to make sure it was true.
“I was in shock,” he said.
Alberre said he does not know which of his customers won the jackpot. The store caters to retirees who live in Sun City as well as motorists passing through on the freeway.
He also wasn’t sure yet what his family will do with the $1 million bonus.
“It’s a blessing to be part of this day,” Alberre said.
His father, Albeir, who came to the United States from Syria in 1987, has owned Marietta Liquor for the past 26 years.
This year began terribly for the family because Albeir, 64, was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. The stress was hard on everyone, Matthew said.
“Starting out the year, it seemed like it was going to be the worst year in the world, and six months later our store hit the Powerball,” Matthew said. “It’s like God was there providing us with comfort, saying, ‘Everything is going to be OK.’”
The family had had other reason to celebrate recently: Matthew’s nephew, Julen, was born June 6.
“We’re calling him the lucky baby,” Matthew said.
At the store Sunday morning, customers swapped congratulatory high-fives, hugs and handshakes with the Alberre family — including wife Lina and another son, Fadi — as they helped lottery officials decorate the store. Albeir, hooked up to an oxygen tank, was out front putting up balloons to celebrate the jackpot.
“When I heard it on the news last night, I was like, ‘Marietta Liquor, Are you kidding me?’” said Dean Castle, 72, who has shopped and bought lottery tickets at the store for 17 years. “What a feeling. It’s like lightning striking. I’m so thrilled for those people that own the store.”
Castle and a friend, Jesus Cosio, talked wishfully about becoming the next millionaire as they played various lottery games Sunday. They were lucky a few times and split $100 from a winning California Gold Scratchers ticket.
With Saturday’s winner, Marietta Liquor has produced three millionaires in the years Albeir Alberre has owned the store. He sold a $9 million SuperLotto jackpot in 1996 and earlier had a $1 million Scratchers winner, his son said.
The store, in a shopping center just off the 215 Freeway at McCall Road, was already on the California Lottery’s “Lucky Retailer” list.
A store can earn that designation by doing any one of three things during the previous calendar year: selling at least one winning ticket worth $100,000 or more, paying out an average of 400 or more winning tickets per week, or paying out an average of $4,000 or more worth of winning tickets per week.
Marietta Liquor had met the second two criteria; with Saturday’s mega-win, it now has a hat trick.
Recognition for Menifee?
Mayor Neil Winter said the win is “another great omen” for a city that is rebounding from some tough financial times in recent years.
With more revenue coming in, “We’re hoping to do a lot of positive things,” Winter said. “It would be a cherry on top if one of our residents wins this.”
He’s also hoping to garner more national recognition for Menifee, which is among the fastest-growing cities in Riverside County and the state.
“I hope it puts Menifee on the map,” he said. “With this win and the name getting into the press, people are going to stop saying, ‘Where the hell is Menifee?’”
Vicki Carpenter, a Menifee resident who has worked in the Sun City area for more than 30 years, was ecstatic when she heard the news. The shopping center where the liquor store is located was the first one built in Sun City. Now, even more people will shop at the business, which already had a reputation for lottery success, she said.
“If the winner is a Menifee resident, some of that money will be spent in Menifee,” said Carpenter, the incoming president of the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce and a manager for Caldwell Banker Associated Brokers. “It helps our economic environment.”
Israel Boyett, who lives a few blocks away from the shopping center, said he’s won about $1,500 in lottery prizes over the past decade.
“I had to come here and see if some of the good fortune rubs off on me,” the 50-year-old said as he waited in line to buy a ticket. “I never thought this would happen in a place like this. It’s a small community, but it’s not going to be one for much longer.”
The Associated Press and staff writer Ali Tadayon contributed to this report.
The jackpot, by the numbers
Winning numbers: 20-26-32-38-58, with a Powerball of 3
Prize (estimated): $447.8 million if paid as a 29-year annuity, $279.1 million if paid in a lump sum — minus taxes, either way
How long it took: 20 drawings since April 1, the last time someone had hit the Powerball jackpot. After Saturday’s win, the prize now resets to $40 million.
Place in record books: 10th-largest lottery prize in U.S. history
Odds of winning: 1 in 292.2 million (same for any Powerball drawing)
Other recent multimillion-dollar Inland jackpots: