PHILO — There are only three employees at the Phillips 66 in Philo, but none of them know who sold the $1 million lottery ticket in the last two weeks.
Owner Umesh Patel wasn’t even aware of the sale of the jackpot “$2,000 Frenzy Multiplier” ticket until he was doing paperwork last Tuesday and saw a $10,000 bonus — the station’s 1 percent cut of the win.
He called up one of his two employees, Joyce Bielert.
“I asked her, ‘Did you sell any winning ticket?’ She said no,” Patel said.
His other worker didn’t know anything about it either, but eventually, Patel heard from the Illinois Lottery and confirmed it was real.
Patel plans to give the employees a cut of the bonus, but Bielert says she hopes they’ll use it to do some work around the station, where she has worked for nearly 20 years.
“There’s a lot of little things we can fix around the store,” Bielert said.
She can point out the additions to the original building and said she’d love a new parking lot.
The staff hasn’t had a chance to meet and see how far the $10,000 will take them yet, but it’ll be a group decision.
“We’re a tight-knit little family,” Bielert said.
The three staff members keep the store open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends), so they know most of their customers by car, face or name.
This lottery win has brought in some more traffic; the station was already designated “lucky” by the Illinois Lottery after previous winning tickets were sold there, but this was the biggest one.
Everybody has been coming in asking about the winner.
Their identity will likely continue to be a mystery, as they told the Illinois Lottery they’d like to remain anonymous.
The winner did share that they swung through the station for a coffee along with the $20 ticket on their way to work and planned to use the money toward their kids’ college fund.
The secrecy doesn’t stop the employees and customers from theorizing, though.
“We probably shouldn’t do that … but we do,” Bielert said.
The working theory is that the winner was from out of town, because if it was someone in Philo, population 1,300, Patel and Bielert think they would have heard about it.
No matter who it was, Patel is excited for them — and he wouldn’t mind if it happened again.
“I hope we sell more winning tickets, even more than a million,” Patel said.