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Winning ticket sold at Church Hill corner store known for hard luck

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)–Whoever is holding Richmond’s latest winning million dollar Power Ball lottery ticket bought it Wednesday at a store on a Church Hill corner known for hard luck.

The Ocean Grocery sits in the 2400 block of Venable Street – right on N. 25th Street – an area once so plagued by drug dealing, crime and violence, the Richmond Police Department built it’s Church Hill precinct station right across the street.

It’s still a little raw.

“A lot of people won’t stop here, just because of the look,” said clerk Hilal Alkatteeb, part of the family that owns and runs the store. He said many passersbys are intimidated by the location and the crew that’s hanging around. “’Aw no, I’m not stopping in there. Something’s going to happen.”

“Everybody thinks we’re just a bunch of drunks just hanging around,” said longtime regular William “Shorty” Monroe. “It’s not like that. We’re a family out here.”

The store is a busy gathering place for many. It’s a family-owned business known for providing a little help when folks need it.

But it seemed like for a long time this corner was drowning in bad luck.

“It was like the wild, wild west,” Shorty recalled.

In the late ‘80s, back when it was AJ’s Market, the place was robbed at gunpoint twice.

In ‘86, a security guard shot a 16-year-old robber inside, records show.

The area out back and down Venable was a notorious drug market for a generation. Old men and even an old woman were robbed at gunpoint outside in 2002 and 2003. (A large retirement home is right down the street.)

In 2008 a teen was shot and wounded out there. Another was injured by gunfire the next year.

But perhaps the unluckiest day was in October of 1990, when a female motorist drove her car into store, collapsing a brick wall that fell on store clerk Julian Wilson, who was crushed to death.

All of which is why so many there are hoping the winner is a local person, a regular, part of the crew that has weathered the hard times, and good ones.

“It would be a blessing to Church Hill if one of us could do that,” Shorty said.

“I think it’s truly a blessing, especially for the holiday time in this area,” said customer Aleisha Cosby. “Times are tough. Somebody in this area is lucky. It’s a blessing.”

The win has lifted spirits on a hard corner that has gotten sweeter in recent years. The Ocean Grocery has a much more lucky feel to it now.

“Step by step” said store worker Alkatteeb. “It’s getting better. It’s a lot better than it was . . . but it still has a way to go.”

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