Lottery winner

A banner announcing the recent $168 million Mega Millions winner hangs outside Brookside Market and Deli in Exeter. 

EXETER — The lucky winner of a $168 million Mega Millions jackpot has come forward, according to the owner of the store that sold the ticket in July.

Brookside Market and Deli has been buzzing since state lottery officials announced that the ticket for the jackpot on July 23 was purchased at the store at 51 Hampton Road.

The winner recently contacted the New Hampshire Lottery, but the person’s identity will likely remain a mystery because the jackpot is being claimed through a trust, store owner Peter Aresco said Tuesday.

Aresco said he has no idea who won.

“I’d like to just give him a big hug,” he said while taking a quick break during Tuesday’s busy lunch rush.

The lottery winner has been the talk of the store since the drawing.

“It’s been a little crazy,” Aresco said.

Lottery officials have not yet formally announced that the winner has come forward.

This is the first time New Hampshire has sold a winning ticket for the Mega Millions jackpot, but the state has had a lucky streak in recent years.

Last year, a $559.7 million Powerball ticket was sold at Reed’s Ferry Market in Merrimack. Another winner hit a $487 million Powerball jackpot in 2016 with a ticket purchased at the Hannaford grocery store in Raymond.

Brookside Market and Deli received $75,000 for selling the winning Mega Millions ticket.

Aresco said some of the money was shared with his employees while the rest will be used to make improvements to the store.

“Hopefully they’ll have some kind of normal life. This has been life-changing for us and it was only $75,000,” he said.

Aresco said he was glad the winner set up a trust to claim the jackpot to maintain anonymity. Otherwise, the winner’s name would have to be made public.

“Even for us we’ve gotten some calls from other states saying, ‘I want your luck. I want your good luck charm.’ We’ve gotten some weird calls,” he said, adding that one in particular concerned him enough to warn the caller not to call again or he would contact police.

Lottery winners have a year from the date of the drawing to come forward and claim the prize.

The jackpot was worth $168 million before taxes if the winner chose to take the cash in annuity payments over 30 years. The winner would receive $108.8 million pre-tax if taken in a lump sum payment.

It wasn’t clear Tuesday how the winner would take the prize.