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J.J. Blinkers owner wins $200K in Reindeer Riches lottery

Joanne linker 58 Kim Bulb45 ham it up for their lottery win. When Lottery officials showed up with giant check

Joanne linker, 58, and Kim Bulba, 45, ham it up for their lottery win. When Lottery officials showed up with a giant check they had a giant deposit slip for the giant check at JJ Blinkers costume and gag gift store in Antioch. Note her giant pen as well. | Frank Abderholden/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 12, 2014 3:36AM

Joanne Linker and her friend Kim Bulaba made state lottery officials in Springfield blink more than once last week when they arrived to submit Linker’s winning $200,000 Reindeer Riches scratch-off ticket wearing reindeer antlers and red noses.

Which is appropriate since Linker is part owner and Bulaba is the manager of JJ Blinkers, a downtown Antioch store that specializes in costumes, magic and jokes. A security guard at the IRS building in Springfield where the lottery offices are housed had to comment.

“You ladies know it’s hunting season,” Linker said he told them. “In 15 years I’ve never seen anyone dressed up or so excited,” he continued.

The winnings come just in time because the store has been struggling through the recession, said Linker, who owns the store with partner Rich Hart.

“We needed a little room to breath,” she said, “and this is a big oxygen tank,” she said.

“It’s going to be a big shot in the arm for the store,” she continued, what with the cracked front window, cracked window on the door and slow computers.

In addition, they will receive $2,000 because they sold the winning ticket. They started selling them in July after being turned down the first time they applied to be a lottery seller.

She joked about how they sell gag lottery tickets that make people think they won $2,000 after scratching off the boxes only to turn it over and find out you have to redeem it “at your mama’s house.”

The pair always wished they could win the lottery, but then they realized they didn’t play, so they started playing the scratch-off instant tickets.

“You can’t win if you don’t play,” she said, but she acknowledged that they didn’t buy them all the time. She was on a ladder decorating her home near Antioch the day before Thanksgiving when Bulaba, who was at the store and scratched off the tickets for her, called her with the news.

“My family members told me to go to the store if I needed to,” she said, explaining that she was in shock and shaking. Officials told her to count on about 45 percent of the total, plus the bonus check of $2,000 for selling the ticket.

“We’ll probably have a good $90,000,” she said, which she plans to spread around and do some things around the store. “It’s going to be gone so fast,” laughed Linker. “It’s all about the laughing. My uncle always said laugh, if you’re not laughing, you’re crying,” she said.

As officials lined them up for the picture with the giant check, Linker showed her well-known sense of humor by having a giant pen and a giant deposit slip to deposit the giant check.

“It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” said Wally Jaszkowski, 69, of Bristol, Wis., who was her first customer when the store opened 29 years ago and regularly buys tickets at the shop at 896 Main Street.

Antioch Mayor Larry Hanson also stopped in to congratulate her and of course when he shook her hand she shocked him with a buzzer.

“She’s always got a joke,” he said shaking his head. “It’s pretty exciting, I’m happy for her. It couldn’t happen to a better person. She deserves it,” he said.

She does plan to do something for herself as well. “But now I won’t feel guilty about it when I want to do something,” she said.

“Hopefully we’ll have some fun,” said Linker.

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