Los Angeles Times
Kim Ky Noodle House in San Gabriel became an instant landmark after selling a Mega Millions ticket worth $166.5 million to Kevyn Ogawa of the San Fernando Valley.
By Ching-Ching Ni
September 3, 2009
Kim Ky Noodle House in San Gabriel is best known for its simple and affordable fare. A bowl of noodles goes for less than $5.
But after a customer purchased a winning lottery ticket there last week worth $166.5 million -- the second-biggest Mega Millions jackpot in California history -- the restaurant became an instant landmark.
"People from Monrovia, L.A., even San Francisco called to get our address," restaurant manager Linda Wong said during the lunch rush Tuesday. "They say, 'I never heard of you before.' They don't even know what we sell. They just want our address and directions."
California Lottery spokesman Alex Traverso said Kevyn Ogawa, 33, of the San Fernando Valley claimed his prize in the multistate game on Tuesday. Ogawa told officials he did not want to be interviewed.
The odds of winning Friday's jackpot was one in 176 million, state officials said. What made the win even sweeter for Ogawa was that he bought only one lottery ticket, for a dollar.
"That's about the biggest return on investment of any winner," Traverso said. The winning combination was 37, 1, 17, 31, 54 and mega number 31.
But Kim Ky Noodle House is the other big winner. The little neighborhood restaurant is enjoying its newfound popularity.
Inside the bustling eatery, with its East-meets-West decor of Christmas tree ornaments dangling from the ceiling and Chinese-language karaoke blasting from TVs, customers slurped pasta thick and thin this week and gossiped about the big win. The restaurant's owners taped posters inscribed with the nine-figure jackpot on all the mirrored walls.
"Makes me sick to see that sign," said David Tran, 28, of Alhambra, pulling at his skinny egg noodles with chopsticks. "I bought a ticket a week ago. That could have been me!"
Cinthia Lynn of Arcadia said she had just picked up her sister at the airport and drove her straight to her favorite noodle shop.
Lynn recounted how she had plunked down five bucks there last week for lottery tickets.
"I didn't win," she said. "Not even $1 million."
But she did win sister Yen Tran's approval for picking Kim Ky's for lunch. Tran had flown in from Vietnam a few hours earlier and for her first meal in the U.S. ordered a bowl of rice porridge, a typical Asian breakfast. It made her feel right at home, except for the portion, which was typically American.
"It's big," she said.
Some people were more interested in getting rich than getting fed.
"I already ate," said Richard Yeh, 50, who pushed through the front door and headed straight to the cashier to buy his tickets. "It could happen again," he said. "The god of good fortune is here. Do you believe it?"
Jessie Mendez, 68, a retired plant worker for GM, said he had never eaten at Kim Ky's. But he comes a few times a week just to try his luck with the lottery.
"I spent $392 yesterday," Mendez said. "I got nothing. I've been playing 35 years."
When they opened for business in 2001, the owners of the noodle house said, all they wanted was the chance to make an honest living, one bowl at a time. They were as surprised as anyone when Ogawa's big jackpot was traced back to their restaurant.
"That person is really lucky," said Vin Lay, 55, a Cambodian Chinese immigrant and one of the five owners.
Lay fled the "killing fields" of Cambodia before immigrating to the U.S. in 1981; the others are Vietnamese Chinese who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975.
The owners will split a bonus of $832,500 for selling the winning ticket. They plan to celebrate today by giving away free lottery tickets to all their customers.