UNITY — When Blaine McCormick picked up a few groceries on his way home from work last week, he had no idea that he was going to leave the store $100,000 richer than when he walked in.

McCormick’s Thursday was like any other day of working for his brother at the Depot Country Store. At the end of the day, he stopped to buy a loaf of bread for his wife.

He redeemed a scratch-off ticket that paid $5 and deliberated about whether to pocket the cash or buy another ticket.

“I’ve bought quite a few of those tickets in the last few weeks,” he said. “I wasn’t going to buy it, because I won on it yesterday, but something told me to buy it.”

He hemmed and hawed before finally deciding to plunk the money down on a 20X the Money game.

As he scratched off the new ticket, at first he thought he won a hundred dollars. When he realized the actual value, he called his wife, Karen.

“He said, ‘Are you sitting down? You better sit down for this.’ I thought he was going to tell me something about our children,” she said. “I was scared, really.”

Store employee Valarie Tweedie, who’s worked there 28 years, said that she’s never seen him look like that in all her years.

“He came down in the office and he shut the door. He looked at me white as a ghost,” she said.

After asking her to check the ticket to verify the amount, “he made me put it in the safe while he ground hamburger. He didn’t want to get blood on it,” Tweedie said.

After he finished with the last-minute chore of grinding hamburger, he drove to Augusta and collected a check that very day.

The odds of winning the $100,000 prize in the 20X the Money game aren’t good: one in 168,000. The odds of winning anything, including a free ticket, is one in 4.46.

McCormick, 60, said that he’s been buying tickets since they were first offered in Maine about 25 years ago. He estimates that he spends a thousand dollars a year on them.

The big payday won’t change his habit of buying a couple tickets at a time.

“I still buy them,” he said. “I bought one or two today.”

Tim Poulin, deputy director of the Maine State Lottery, said that there are no rules against family members or employees of stores that sell them buying tickets.

“There’s no way that anyone knows where the winners are in packs of tickets,” Poulin said. “We don’t know ourselves, so the fact that his brother owns the store doesn’t give him any advantage.”

Poulin said that the win is a reminder that the lottery does pay off — sometimes.

“Any time anyone from Maine can win $100,000, it’s always good to know that the Maine lottery will pay back more than any casino does,” he said.

Federal and state taxes on the winnings were $30,000, which still left a tidy sum for McCormick.

“He walked out of here with a check for $70,000,” said Poulin.

The store will get 1 percent of the total winnings, or $1,000, for selling the winning ticket.

McCormick said the money will help to make his upcoming retirement go more smoothly.

“I’m probably just going to set on it for a while to make sure it’s real,” McCormick said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

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