ST. PAUL-Alan Miller was selling gasoline, coffee and dreams at the BP on St. Paul's Rice Street on Monday, Oct. 22.
Still, the proprietor of the gas station and Milmarket convenience store on St. Paul's North End knows that not even the prospects of winning a record Mega Millions jackpot - estimated at $1.6 billion for Tuesday night's drawing - can so easily separate his customers from their Minnesota sensibilities.
"There's Raz!" Miller said as he saw one customer head inside. "He could buy a new ice fishing house! Well, he's already got one. But he could get a really fancy one."
Raz shook his head.
"You can't buy what I have," said the 60-year-old retiree of his icehouse.
What does he have?
"Heaven," he said of his handmade, plywood creation.
Instead, Raz - who said he only goes by Raz - believes he'd focus on helping loved ones if he wins big with the single $2 Mega Millions ticket he purchased on Monday, along with $10 in gasoline for his leaf blower.
"Family and friends are the most important," Raz said. "Even if they don't all come out fishing with me."
That might change if Raz becomes a billionaire. What hasn't changed for Miller is showing up for customers since he and his wife, Michele, purchased the corner gas station and convenience store on Oct. 25, 1991.
"It was closed when we bought it," Miller says. "Our very first day of business was November 1st, 1991. Do you remember what happened that day?"
As luck would have it, we do - as do many others: The Halloween blizzard. It was a fortunate day for the neighbors to find a new business open and stocked with sundries, within walking distance of home in a storm.
"They had no place to go, they couldn't drive anywhere, so they came here," Miller said. "Everything was fresh and brand new. It was a good way to start - or memorable, at least."
They've been selling lottery tickets ever since - while also raising five kids, and welcoming their first grandchild.
Don't say he won the lottery of life, though.
"Well, it's hard work," said Miller. "I work seven days a week."
Maybe not if he wins on Tuesday, though. Miller imagined that scenario.
"I'll wait for the employees to get here," he said. "Then I'd tell them: 'Everything's free and clear, and it's all yours now. Good luck and have fun. I'll send a tip later - I'm going to see my brother in Norway.' "
It's not that unusual for folks here to win - in fact, just last Thursday, someone scratched at a ticket that revealed a $200,000 win.
"He said, 'I think I'm going to retire today,' " Miller said.
Now he can, maybe. Others hope to join him.
"We've gained the reputation of being a lucky store with selling a lot of winners," said Miller. "People will come in and say , 'I hear this is the lucky store.' We just sell a lot more tickets than other places."
Maybe customers need the hope - life isn't always so easy here on Rice Street. On Monday, a regular wandered in, looking dazed and struggling to communicate. He didn't get a lottery ticket, but he did get kindness and help with a phone call.
In this corner on Monday, business was steady and people's dreams seemed like the dreams of people across Minnesota - dreams of making life a little easier:
"I'd pay off my momma's house."
"I'd get away from winter, move somewhere warm."
"I'd ensure my children's college careers."
"I'd pay off all my bills and tell my mom to quit her job."
Miller doesn't expect his own life to be particularly easy on Tuesday.
"Basically, from about 6 p.m. until the cutoff at 9 o'clock, we will not be doing anything else but selling tickets," Miller said.
Eventually, life will return to normal. Miller will be behind the counter, greeting the regulars as they buy gasoline, coffee and dreams. Maybe that's the real reason they are a lucky store.
"Have you noticed something?" Miller asked.
He waved his hands out at the tiny store, packed with customers and merchandise.
"We know everybody," said Miller with a smile. "There are others who are bigger and brighter, but we hold our own by being part of the neighborhood."
History: Mega Millions began on Aug. 31, 1996, as the Big Game, with six states participating. Now, 46 lotteries sell Mega Millions - Minnesota joined in 2010 and we are still awaiting our first jackpot winner (although there have been $1 million dollar prizes).
Cost to play: $2
Current Mega Millions jackpot: $1.6 billion (record jackpot in U.S. history)
Next drawing: 10 p.m. local time on Tuesday (tickets must be purchased by 9 p.m. local time on Tuesday)
Cash option: $904.9 million ($622.1 million after required tax withholding)
Powerball: Meanwhile, the Powerball has reached $620 million, the sixth largest jackpot in U.S. history. Cash option is $354.3 million ($243.5 million after required tax withholiding).
Minnesota: Combined, the Powerball and Mega Millions jackpot rolls have generated more than $11.4 million for Minnesota, including more than $5 million for environmental beneficiaries. Minnesota has had five $10,000 Mega Millions winners since the roll began in July, and a $50,000 Powerball winner on Oct. 20.
Heating up: Sales rise as the jackpots get bigger - including more office pools when the jackpots rise above $100 million.
Payment options: Jackpot winners have 60 days from the date that they claim the prize to choose between the annuity (an initial payment, followed by 29-yearly payments) or the cash option.
Payment date: Jackpot winners can receive their prize two weeks after the drawing.
Taxes: The Lottery is required to withhold 31.25 percent (24 percent federal and 7.25 percent state).
Retailer bonus: $50,000.