Livin’ on the Edge


Rural location has its advantages

About 15 miles east of the Columbus corporate limit sign, on an often-lonely stretch of U.S. Highway 82, there’s a convenience store that, considering the population around it, considerably outkicks its coverage.

Sprint Mart #4107 prominently displays Mississippi Lottery tickets and adapted the play center to a countertop unit, forgoing the storage bottom. About a mile from the Alabama state line, the rural roadside oasis does big business, especially when jackpots start climbing.

“Oh, the lottery makes a big difference in foot traffic,” said Crystal Strickland, manager of the store. “When Mega Millions went over $1 billion, we tried to keep it orderly, but we had people stretched around the building, and we had people up and down every aisle. We had people parked in places I didn’t even know were parking places.”

But even when the jackpots are something less than astronomical, lottery sales are steady, she said.

“We do a lot of sales on the $10 and $20 scratch-off tickets,” Strickland said. “Overall, it’s usually about even between the draw games and the scratch off games in terms of daily sales.

Being close to the state line definitely has its advantages, but Strickland said she’s been surprised by how far players are willing to drive.

“We’ve had people from the other side of Birmingham come to here to get tickets,” she said.

During the height of the Mega Millions purchasing frenzy, people in the corporate office apparently kept a keen eye on sales. Leading up to the drawing in which someone hit the $1.337 billion jackpot in Illinois, Strickland received a call from someone at the corporate office.

“They said, ‘You’re only $900 behind (the Sprint Mart store in) Fulton,’” she said. “I thought, ‘Oh, lord, I don’t know if we can make it!’ I was almost ready to send people to another store.”