The mood was all party on Wednesday at a small San Jose gift shop tucked inside a suburban strip mall where a Vietnam-born owner sold a $648 million Mega Millions jackpot ticket. He stands to pocket a cool $1 million himself.
Customers, lottery officials, and hordes of reporters were camped out at Jenny's Gift and Kid's Wear on Tully Road, where owner Thuy Nguyen took over the small store specializing in Buddha statues, silky Asian clothing, clocks and other knicknacks just four months ago.
Nguyen spoke to NBC Bay Area exclusively on Tuesday night when he first found out he sold one of the country's two winning Mega Millions tickets.
And, after a brief night's sleep spent with his wife hugging him until dawn, Nguyen spoke to a crowd of reporters on Wednesday morning where lottery officials hosted a celebration event, even though the person who won the real Mega Millions jackpot from his shop has yet to come forward. A Georgia woman won the other half of the pot, lottery officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
"I feel lucky," Nguyen said in bits of broken English in front of a bank of camera. "I don't know what I'm going to do with the money. I'm not thinking about it right now. I don't have it. I just want to be successful in the USA."
Lottery official John Reading handed Nguyen, who moved to the U.S. in 1993, a fake check for $1 million. Nguyen will get the real cash in January. In California, retailers get a 0.5 percent of the prize, up to $1 million.
Aside from the mystery San Jose ticket buyer, the other Mega Millions winner bought a ticket in Georgia from the Gateway Newsstand in Atlanta, where the retailer doesn't get any bonus. Instead, in Georgia, lottery retailers earn a flat 6 percent commission on all lottery sales. The Georgia winner was identified as Ira Curry from Stone Mountain, Ga., by lottery officials on Wednesday.
Curry chose to take $170 million in one lump sum. It's unclear if the San Jose winner will do that, or take $324 million over several years. And don't forget to subtract 25 percent in federal taxes. The California winner doesn't have to pay any taxes on the win.
The ticket's winning numbers are: 8, 14, 17, 20, 29; Megal Ball: 7.
The ticket was originally estimated to be worth $636 million, but lottery officials said more people bought a ticket than was originally estimated. Each has a year to claim the prize.
"We're excited," Reading said. "This is the second largest prize in U.S. history. It's big news here for us in California."
For now, Nguyen is left to field reporter questions and guess who bought the winning ticket. He says he sold "a lot." And whoever it is, Nguyen is sure he'll know the person. "My customer (sic) are my friends," he said.
He's not sure how he'll spend the money, but Nguyen believes his good fortune is a result of his faith and karma.
"I go to church every week," he said. "I believe I'm doing good then good comes. God give it to me. I'm happy with my life. I feel good. I'm a lucky person."
Lottery officials urged the ticket winner to immediately sign the back of the winning ticket in ink and claim the prize at the nearest California Lottery District Office. The one closest to where the San Jose ticket was sold is the East Bay District Office at 2489 Industrial Parkway West in Hayward or (510) 670-4630. There is also an office in South San Francisco at 820 Dubuque Avenue or (650) 875-2200.