A1 Convenience owner Jodi Rai, right, joins the five million-dollar lotto winners who have all purchased tickets at his Port Alberni corner store: from left, Rocky LaPlante, Helga and Al Fry, Otto Anker, Louise and Ian Thomas (who won $5 million in February 2019), and Richard Zoet. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Port Alberni is home to B.C.’s luckiest lotto store

Five million-dollar winners bought tickets from same corner store

Port Alberni boasts of one of the winningest convenience stores in B.C. Lottery Corporation history.

On Friday, March 22, A-1 Convenience on Redford Street celebrated its five, million-dollar and multi-million-dollar winners as part of its 26-year anniversary.

“It’s the luck of the draw,” said Jodi Rai, who owns A-1 Convenience with his wife Surinder. “It’s their luck and we are just the provider. We’re really glad they won,” he added.

READ: Port Alberni couple wins $5 million jackpot

Al and Helga Fry were the first million-dollar winners at A-1 Convenience, in 1996, just three years after the Rais opened their store.

“It was a random ticket,” Helga recalls.

Al bought the ticket. He remembers he was watching a football game on TV when he checked the numbers and realized they won $1 million. He put the ticket on their china cabinet, told Helga to take a look at it “then I finished watching the football game,” he said. “For two weeks the ticket sat there.”

When the couple finally went to Victoria to claim their prize, they stayed in a hotel that was as close to the lottery ticket office as they could get. It wasn’t an expensive hotel, Helga said, and no one suspected they were big winners.

“We sat in the hotel having breakfast with our picture on the front page (of a newspaper) and no one sitting around us knew who we were.”

They didn’t do anything splashy with their money, but they helped their children “so that was a big thing,” Helga said.

Rocky and Patti LaPlante purchased a Celebration ticket on Jan. 16, 1997, and became the next instant millionaires.

“It was the first one that came out with cars on it,” Rocky LaPlante recalled. He and his wife ended up giving a lot of their winnings away.

Otto Anker became part of the A-1 Convenience millionaire club in 1998.

READ: Alberni’s newest millionaire ‘feeling good about life’

Richard Zoet kept quiet about his lotto win for a few days, even as rumours about who from Port Alberni had the million-dollar ticket were swirling around the community. The guaranteed $1 million win on the June 7, 2017 Lotto 6/49 draw came at the conclusion of a difficult period in Zoet’s life: he had come out of bankruptcy a week earlier following a jail sentence and repayment to ICBC.

A regular lotto player in the past, Zoet bought one 6/49 ticket for the June 7 draw, he recalled. “When it showed online that the winner was from Port Alberni, I said that was my ticket. Then I checked it and it was a winning ticket. I just sat on it.”

Since then, he bought new cars for himself and his mother, and he has made numerous donations to local charities.

Also at the A-1 Convenience celebration were Ian and Louise Thomas who won $5 million on Feb. 13. Their legal names are Harold and Madelaine, and BCLC announced their win using those names.

“I bought the ticket, and I checked it,” Louise said. “We were up at the Smoke Stack, it’s friends of ours that own it. We went up to say hi. I hadn’t checked my ticket yet…she put the ticket in the machine and it seized up. She said ‘what have you done to my machine?’”

“We went into shock,” Ian said. “The girls behind the counter were screaming.”

The Thomases play the 6/49 lottery every Saturday and Wednesday. Louise usually walks to A-1 Convenience to buy their tickets.

“It’s our go-to spot. The service is good,” Ian said.

Eventually the Thomases want to travel, but Louise is still working right now. They will soon have family in Mississauga, ON, and plan on making regular trips back and forth.

The convenience store received $2,000 for selling each big winner, according to BCLC territory manager Taylor Landry. The rules are different for other provinces, where sellers receive larger awards. The rules will be changing in B.C. in the near future, Landry said, although he couldn’t elaborate.

“To have this many winners that have won major prizes (in the area) is pretty rare. To all buy from one store is pretty rare,” Landry said.

Last year A-1 Convenience sold $379,000 in lottery tickets, Rai said. Everytime a big winner is announced he has seen a spike in sales. Even people attending the celebration on Friday said they had bought tickets that day.

Most of the winners claim A-1 Convenience as their neighbourhood corner store, and all of them decided to stay in the neighbourhood despite their big wins. They all still buy lottery tickets too.

“They are very, very customer friendly,” Zoet agreed.

“We are never moving, ever,” Louise Thomas said.

“We are really thankful for all the community behind us,” said Rai. “We would not be here unless the community supports us.”


Just Posted

Ladybird ends undefeated season with Spring League championship

Port Alberni spring basketball league ended after three weeks of playoffs

Port Alberni riders compete in Pony Club championships in Courtenay

Two riders earn ribbons at regional competition

Port Alberni contractor earns safety award

Mosaic Forest Management honoured 10 Vancouver Island contractors

Courtenay-Alberni Greens name Sean Wood as federal candidate

Nomination meeting took place June 15 at Hupacasath Hall in Port Alberni

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District approves one cannabis store, denies another

Stores would have been located across the street from one another in Cherry Creek

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

Most Read