ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
The employees at the Ampride convenience store in Marion regularly see customers claim anywhere from $500 to $5,000 in the Kansas Lottery. But in October, the store’s biggest cash winner was named, and he was a familiar customer.
Art Davis, 50, of Bennington, won $100,000 the day after he purchased $5 worth of Powerball tickets on Oct. 15 at the Marion Ampride.
“When Art won it, it was a personal win for everyone, because we’re all family,” said Laura Legg, supervisor for the Marion and Hillsboro Ampride stores.
“Everybody’s so happy because he’s part of our community. He may not live in Marion, but he’s part of our community. Everybody knows him.”
Davis is a familiar figure in Marion because, for the past four years, he’s driven a route there for Schwan Sales Enterprises with headquarters in Marshall, Minn.
As the Schwan’s man, he distributes a variety of frozen-food products to customers in Marion on Monday through Thursday, every other week.
And he’s part of the Ampride family of customers on a regular basis.
“I always go there in the morning to get coffee,” Davis said.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, he usually spends the night in Marion and often stops in the Ampride for his supper in the evening.
Wife Betty works in the registrar’s office at Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina. And the couple have two sons, one daughter and two grandchildren.
For the past two years, part of his Ampride routine is to purchase $5 worth of Powerball tickets each week-but only when the payoff reaches $50 million and above.
“Then I buy a ticket every week until somebody wins it,” Davis said. After the win, he waits until the cash prize creeps back up to the $50 million mark again before he begins his routine anew.
Owned by the Cooperative Grain & Supply with offices in Hillsboro, the Hillsboro and Marion Ampride stores also offer Kansas Cash, Kansas 2 by 2, Pick 3 and Scratch tickets in addition to the Powerball game.
Davis matched five numbers to win $100,000. But if a ticket holder matches the five numbers in combination with a Powerball number, they could win from $10 million up into the $100 million range and beyond.
Part of the allure of purchasing lottery tickets is the sheer excitement of being a potential winner, Legg said.
“When it’s great big, like $100 million, some people will spend $1,” she said. “And it’s two days until the draw, so you have two days of anticipation. So it puts a little dream there-a little bit of excitement.”
After purchasing his Powerball tickets on Oct. 15, Davis stayed overnight in Marion and began his route in Florence the next day. That morning, he checked his ticket at a Florence convenience store and discovered he matched the five powerball numbers.
“I knew right away I had won, but I was pretty calm,” Davis said about his initial reaction to his windfall. “I called my wife right away, and she screamed in the phone. She got real excited.”
When he received his check from the lottery, the government had already taken out about 30 percent for taxes. But the remaining substantial winnings meant that the Davis family could reduce some financial debts.
“We put a big chunk on the principal on our house, put a big chunk in the savings, bought some things we needed and bought a couple of things we really didn’t need,” Davis said. “It was a good feeling. I wish everybody could feel that.”
For two reasons, the month of October has special meaning for the couple.
“We put this down on the calendar because six years ago in October, Betty won a trip to Rome,” in a radio give-a-way program, Davis said. “So we’re going to make sure six years from now to buy another lottery ticket in October, just to see what happens.”
Until then, the couple can hold on to the memory of the win and the celebration that followed at the Ampride store on Nov. 15-one month after his lucky purchase.
A party at noon that day included free hamburgers, Hillsboro sausage, cake and prizes for area customers who had an opportunity to congratulate Davis-all organized by Legg and Marion Ampride manager Paula Wyss.
Ampride covered the expense of the party because, as the outlet for the winning ticket, Ampride receives 1 percent of the winning amount from the Kansas Lottery.
Although Davis received his check earlier, a lottery representative presented a symbolic check to him at the party, and area residents came by to celebrate with the Schwan’s man.
“He’s such a nice man,” Legg said. “A lot of people have come in, and they comment on how happy they are that they know someone who’s won a large prize.”
Sheer numbers of ticket holders in more populous cities means that smaller towns like Marion don’t see large-cash winners such as Davis very often, Legg said.