In 1987 a lucky man won $272,600 at a pharmacy in an innocuous but busy Hastings area mostly known as a junction to get somewhere else. It started a river of Lotto luck that continues to this day. Why? Shannon Johnstone reports.
Peter Dunkerley would give a customer a Lotto ticket and they'd reach across the counter and touch him for good luck.
Such is life at the luckiest Lotto store in NZ.
Unichem Stortford Lodge in Hastings has had a remarkable 49 First Division wins since Lotto started. It's a matter of time, possibly a matter of hours with $28 million in Powerball up for grabs tonight, until it hits a half century.
When it does, it'll likely be able to raise the bat for a half-century streakier than any other in NZ history.
The next closest to it is Richmond Night N Day, Nelson which has sold 35 winning First Division tickets.
The store's first win was on August 15, 1987, Lotto's third ever draw in NZ. A man from Bridge Pa won $272,600.
Dunkerley owned the store on that historic day. It was called Peter Dunkerley Amcal Pharmacy, then it became Radius Peter Dunkerley's and then Unichem Stortford Lodge when Dunkerley sold it in 2005.
No name changes could stop the Lotto momentum though.
"I thought then it had some potential to get big in the future. It started to snowball really, it's just grown and grown," Dunkerley said.
He said in his day people would send money from Australia or Stewart Island to buy a ticket at the store which he would fax to them.
"We even had exports of Lotto tickets.
"I never expected it to get so busy, but boy did it get busy from time to time. People would even come touch me for good luck.
"My queue never disappeared, if I was working on the machines it'd go on all day," Dunkerley said.
Current store manager Carol Ormerod said there was no obvious secret for why the store was so lucky, but it does sell a lot of tickets.
In 2019 the store sold almost six times as many tickets a week compared to the average for Hawke's Bay stores in this period.
"We get a lot of people coming from out of town to buy a ticket here," Ormerod said.
There are three machines which process Lotto tickets. None is luckier than the other, she said.
One person is always on Lotto but at busy times there will be up to three operators.
The machines have been updated over time so the luck doesn't appear to be based on the machine but rather the store itself.
Since its first win, the store has amassed $68m in First Division wins, the largest of the lot an $11m win in March last year.
The winner won $10m on Powerball and $1m on Lotto.
The $11m winner who lives in the area knew of the pharmacy's lucky reputation.
"I still drive past Stortford Lodge and I think back to the moment of buying the ticket and our big win there. It was a pretty special moment.
"I do still buy a ticket from Stortford Lodge every now and then when I am in the area. I don't play as much as I used to, but I still like to play," the March winner said.
When he first found out the winner held on to the ticket for a few days in shock at the win.
"To be honest even though I had checked the ticket so many times, I was a bit nervous that I would take it to a Lotto store and they would say that I had a mistake," he said.
The winner used the money to buy three properties and help their family become mortgage free and clear debt.
"The best thing about winning Lotto was being able to take the financial pressure off for the members of our family. That was really rewarding," the winner said.
Ormerod said being part of a store that was a lucky charm was the dream.
"It's fantastic being known as the luckiest store, we all love it."
She hoped the 50th would be a big win, but "we don't mind really. It will just be exciting to have 50".
Lotto NZ head of communications and corporate social responsibility Marie Winfield said she was looking forward to seeing the store bring up the milestone "whenever that will be".
Dunkerley said Lotto had been great for not just Stortford Lodge, but the whole of Hawke's Bay, which was the second-luckiest region in NZ for First Division wins in 2019.
He had a word of caution, though.
"As long as people don't spend too much on their tickets it gives people a lot of pleasure."