By Paul Tennant and John Toole
---- — With the grand prize now exceeding $400 million, Powerball mania has hit the Merrimack Valley with a vengeance.
“Tomorrow will be a madhouse,” Steven Soucy said last night. He has worked as a night clerk at Quickstop II Convenience on Lowell Street, Methuen, for six years. When Powerball and Mega Millions prizes reach the hundreds of millions of dollars, the line at the lottery counter usually extends more than 20 feet, almost to the back of the store, he said.
Soucy said he’ll probably buy a couple of quick pick tickets himself. If he wins, he’ll take his family on “a nice vacation,” he said.
Chris Johnson, of Tewksbury, went to Quickstop II to buy some Mass Cash tickets. He said he intends to try his luck at Powerball.
And if he wins?
“Maybe I’ll help bail out my native country, Greece,” he said with a laugh. He immigrated to the United States 11 years ago.
Myke Wyman of Londonderry said he regularly plays Powerball but only bought one ticket for tonight. Wyman doesn’t need the whole jackpot.
“I’ll take anything,” he said. His biggest lottery win to date is $100 from Keno in Massachusetts.
Juan Martinez, owner of the Essex Market at Essex and Jackson streets, Lawrence, doesn’t sell lottery tickets, but when he was reminded of the huge prize, he said he will most likely take a shot at it.
If he wins, he said he’ll invest in the city. He’s not exactly sure where he would put all that money, but he expressed much gratitude for Lawrence.
“I love my city,” he said. “I love my Lawrence.” He has operated his convenience store for seven years, he said. He came to Lawrence from New York eight years ago, looking for work. Today he owns a house and a business in his adopted community.
“I make my dream here,” he said.
One the other side of Essex Street, Vicky Rodriguez, of Newbury Street, was at Sweeney’s Package Store buying lottery tickets. Like Martinez, she expressed philanthropic intentions if she wins the Powerball prize.
“Buy a house, buy a car,” she said when asked what she’ll do if she gets extremely lucky. Rodriguez also said she would use her winnings to help the poor people in Lawrence, especially the children.
Esmirna Arias and Cesar Rodriguez own and operate the Rodriguez Grocery at Bailey and Parker streets in South Lawrence. Besides the store, they both work at other jobs, Arias as a child care teacher and Rodriguez as an electrician.
They’ve had the store for a year and they expect a large increase in customers buying Powerball tickets. Besides selling Powerball tickets, Arias said she’ll buy a few herself.
Should she encounter a massive dose of good fortune and win the $400 million prize, she said she’ll “sit down and think and try not to have a heart attack.”
Tony Khalil, owner of Tony’s Convenience Store, 191 Parker St., Lawrence, said he anticipates an increase in lottery sales today. Khalil, who came to America from Egypt, has owned the store for two years.
Kimberly Prall of Londonderry said she would pay off her parents’ mortgage as well as her own, if she wins, plus buy a new Toyota because she needs a car. But Prall also would do good for others with the jackpot.
“I’d choose some Christian ministries that help people living on the street,” she said.
Cindy Wright, a longtime associate at the Richdale Dairy Store, 75 Chickering Road, North Andover, said Powerball sales yesterday were up “a little more than usual.”
“We’re doing all right,” she said.
Andrew Buco, a clerk at McAloon’s Package Store, 531 Chickering Road, said he expected a “slight increase” in Powerball sales there, but added the adjacent Quic Pic Convenience Store will likely see a huge rise in customers trying to win that huge jackpot.
At the Shell station by Exit 4 in Londonderry, a clerk who didn’t want to give her name said she had sold eight chances in the first few minutes of her afternoon shift.
Over at Don’s Market in Hampstead, clerk Nancy Muise said Powerball business will only get better. “Tomorrow it will be busy,” she said.
Some shoppers were unaware of the big jackpot.
“I will definitely get one,” Kayla Green of Londonderry said after being told a chance would get her a shot at $400 million.
“I probably will play,” Mark Johnston of Londonderry said, acknowledging he is an irregular player but wasn’t yet in tonight’s drawing.