SIMPSONVILLE — Nestled between a church, acres of farmland and a golf course, the KC Mart #7 convenience store in this quintessential small Southern town outside Greenville will now forever be known as the place some lucky customer struck lottery gold.
The spot that locals in Simpsonville call "Billy’s store" sold the near national-record-setting $1.5 billion winning Mega Millions ticket.
The winner has not yet come forward to claim their prize and will need to do so in person at the lottery office in Columbia within 180 days, Tony Cooper, chief operating officer of the S.C. Education Lottery, told reporters Wednesday in the store's parking lot.
“It is a big, beautiful day and a very lucky day for one ticket holder,” Cooper said.
C.J. Patel, the owner of the KC Mart #7, said he received a call from lottery officials around 5 a.m. informing him that his convenience store had sold the winning ticket and that he would get $50,000 himself as a result.
Patel, 48, said he wasn’t sure what he would do with the money but planned to put it toward a good cause.
“We are so glad to be here,” Patel said. “This is good attention and good for the community. We don’t know who the winner is but hopefully he spends that money locally and does some good for the community.”
Billy Chamblee, 74, owned the store for 38 years before selling it to Patel about 3½ years ago and bought a ticket at the store himself the previous day.
Chamblee was getting lunch in nearby Greenville when a friend told him the winning ticket had been sold at his old store and came to check out the scene.
While Chamblee allowed that he is “a little bit jealous” that he won’t get the $50,000 reward for selling the winning ticket, he said he’s happy for Patel and it was still “great to see it happen here” at his old store.
“It’s unbelievable,” Chamblee said. “I had a funny feeling when I bought my ticket, and this is what it was I guess. It happened right here.”
A lifelong Simpsonville resident, Chamblee described the Upstate town of 22,000 as “the best place to live in the world,” a small, tight-knit community with easy access to the big city amenities of Greenville.
The one-time Upstate mill town is now home to tech companies like electronics components maker Kemet.
“The weather’s always great so you can play golf year round,” said Chamblee, whose father built the Carolina Springs Golf Course a mile and a half from the store.
Maddi Lowe, who lives just down the road from the store, came from her nearby high school when her mom texted her to tell her the winning ticket had been sold at "Billy’s store," which is a 5-mile drive from Interstate 385.
When she went to nearby Rudolph Gordon Elementary School, Lowe said she and her friends would stop by Billy’s store every morning for breakfast.
“I’ve never seen this many cars here,” said Lowe, 17, as she gawked at the dozens of news trucks that filled the parking lot and lined the streets all the way up to the neighboring New Pilgrim Baptist Church.
Meanwhile, the winning ticket holder isn't the only one who will profit. The state of South Carolina soon could collect about $61.5 million in income tax revenue, assuming the winner is a state resident and collects the winnings in a lump sum, according to state Department of Revenue spokeswoman Bonnie Swingle.
"Keep in mind this could change depending on what the winner does with the winnings," she added. "There are a lot of factors that will go into how much tax revenue the state will see."
Lottery Commissioner Buck Limehouse of Charleston said large jackpots lure more people to play the lottery and having a winning ticket here might add to that. In turn, that trend will help raise more money for education in South Carolina, he added.
Limehouse said he takes pride in how the state lottery keeps less than 7 percent for its operation while providing about $400 million to education and $800 million in prizes to winners.
"Obviously, it’s a great thing for South Carolina because it’s almost a record,“ he said. “It’s a great day for everybody.”
S.C. Education Lottery Director William Hogan Brown told ABC’s “Good Morning America that the commission agreed to keep winners' names private "because of all the risk associated with having that much money."
The state's Freedom of Information Act does allow for exemptions for "information of a personal nature where the public disclosure thereof would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy."
If the winner does live in Simpsonville, Lowe said they’ll have a hard time staying anonymous.
“Everybody knows everybody here,” Lowe said, describing it as a stereotypical Southern town. “If you don’t go to work the next day, people might start to wonder."
Customers trickled in past swarms of reporters to see if they could get the store’s luck to rub off on them in the next major lottery.
“I’ll take a Powerball ticket,” said one customer, Mike Smith. “The winning one, please.”