After selling $2 billion lottery ticket, ‘lucky’ Altadena store sees huge demand for Friday Mega Millions drawing

Counting down to Friday night’s Mega Millions draw, Joe Chahayed said he feels like he’s playing host to a party every day.

Chahayed, 75, owns Joe’s Service Center in Altadena, where a yet-unidentified winner bought a Powerball ticket worth $2.04 billion two months ago.

“I came in at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, and there were people waiting in line up to there,” Chahayed said, pointing to the island of gas tanks outside. “We all went inside and I asked is anyone getting married? It looked like a party. They said it’s a Mega wedding.”

Joe’s sold 7,500 Mega Millions tickets on Jan. 11, he said, and he expects sales to ramp up on Friday the 13th, when lottery officials said the jackpot is estimated at $1.35 billion, or $707.9 million cash. It would be the second-largest jackpot in Mega Millions history.

A customer walks out of Joe’s Service Center at the Mobil gas station in Altadena where Joe is selling thousands of Mega Lotto tickets on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Officials said the date has proven lucky: six previous Mega Millions jackpots hit on Friday the 13th. No one won the jackpot on Jan. 10, but someone in Hacienda Heights bought a ticket that hit five of the lucky numbers. That ticket is worth more than $3.9 million.

The more recent Mega Millions jackpot win was at $502 million on Oct. 14. Winners from that draw came from California and Florida.

Chahayed sends all Mega hopefuls away with a lucky mantra. He’s upgraded it to “winner winner, prime rib dinner,” he said, because chicken just doesn’t cut it anymore.

“People come here because it’s a lucky store,” he said. “And there’s good luck for everyone.”

Derrell Davis, 53, of Altadena, has been buying Lotto tickets at Joe’s even before the Powerball win in November.

“I buy one of each, Powerball, Mega and Super Lotto, weekly, sometimes every other day,” the longtime resident said. “I’m going to keep on buying because you have to be in it to win it, and I believe lightning can strike the same place twice.”

But while the winning ticket two months ago in Altadena has sparked hope among Chahayed’s customers, wannabe instant millionaires are buying up tickets across Southern California.

Denise Stoops, a 52-year-old La Habra resident, went to a 76 gas station on Pierce Street in Riverside for two things: water and a Mega Millions lottery ticket.

“I just ran in for water, but I knew I was going to get a lotto ticket,” Stoops said.

So Stoops, who works in Riverside, began the commute back home with five Mega Million tickets in hand.

What would she do if she won?

“I wouldn’t tell a lot of people and I’d find a trusted accountant,” she said.

A few doors down, in the same shopping center as the gas station, Lawrence Hall, 55, owner of Much Love Barber Shop, said he regularly buys lottery tickets.

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The Moreno Valley resident said he’s bought at least 10 tickets.

“I’d take off work,” he said, referring to a potential win. “Get my thoughts together, a new phone number, discuss with my fiancé, brother and dad.”

“I’d take care of family first,” Hall said, adding that he’d also give back to his church and the barbers working in his shop – and “maybe” buy a new car.

Back toward the coast, Bluebird Liquor in Hawthorne has sold multiple million-plus winning tickets since the California State Lottery began nearly 40 years ago, according to owner James Kim on Thursday.

That’s what attracts the long lines.

“They start early in the morning,” said Bluebird owner James Kim on Thursday where long lines have developed already.

“Friday will be really, really busy,” Kim said.

SCNG reporters Monserrat Solis and Michael Hixon contributed to this story.

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