Television news crews and satellite trucks set up in the...

Television news crews and satellite trucks set up in the parking lot of a King Kullen supermarket in Middle Country, where the wining ticket of a $286 Million Mega Millions drawing was bought. (Dec. 28, 2011) Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

By the checkout aisle of the King Kullen in Middle Island someone struck gold.

The supermarket was abuzz Wednesday with anticipation because a Mega Millions ticket worth $208 million was sold at the store -- the biggest lottery jackpot ever on Long Island.

New York Lottery spokeswoman Carolyn Hapeman said no one immediately stepped forward with the winning Quick Pick ticket bearing Mega numbers 23, 32, 33, 39, 43 and a Mega Ball of 8.

In the meantime, other customers shared in the excitement, if not the fortune.

Dennis Shivers, 55, of Ridge, said he usually buys a Mega Millions ticket when he shops there, but did not for Tuesday's drawing.

"I bought bologna," Shivers said. "I guess that's the closest I'll come to winning the big one."

Hapeman said the jackpot's lump-sum cash option -- a one-time payment instead of an annuity paid over 26 years -- is worth $153.3 million before taxes.

Though she couldn't say when the ticket was sold, store workers said lottery officials told them it was Monday afternoon.

As she rang up chicken legs, steaks, Pop-Tarts, orange juice and potatoes at the checkout stand, cashier Gloria Phalen asked customers over and over, "Are you the one?"

One by one, they sadly shook their heads "no."

The winning ticket was purchased at the store's courtesy desk, which was decorated for the holidays with hanging garlands, a menorah and a small Christmas tree.

Lois Meyers, one of two workers who could have sold the winning ticket, was at the counter again Wednesday. She's sold countless tickets in the past 15 years at the store, she said, and rarely thinks about how it may change someone's life.

"I hope it was one of the regulars" who won, she said.

There was talk of being so close, and yet so far. Of what might have been.

Nancy Nawrocki, 58, of Middle Island, said she usually plays Mega Millions at the Middle Island King Kullen.

As news spread that the winning ticket was bought there, she said, "My son called and said, 'Did you happen to . . .' I said, 'No, I bought mine at Rocky Point yesterday.' "

Had she won, Nawrocki said, "I'd take care of my family first. But I'd go down to St. Jude's, and buy all the kids toys, and I'd give some to St. Jude's," the children's research hospital.

Supermarket accounting manager Lisa Korpi said store clerks buy lottery tickets as a group when the jackpots get big. They won $7 in Tuesday's drawing.

Disappointed?

"I guess, but I'm still happy for the customer," she said.

With Gary Dymski

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