Mark Brown hams it up recently after winning $1 million in the California Lottery Scratchers game. He bought the ticket on Christmas Eve but waited to
Mark Brown hams it up recently after winning $1 million in the California Lottery Scratchers game. He bought the ticket on Christmas Eve but waited to redeem it while he consulted with a lawyer and accountant on how to make the money last and grow.

What's an instant millionaire going to do with the money?

"I think I'll buy some more chickens," Mark Brown said this week, "and I might buy a Teacup pig, too."

He's not joking. The former Ferrari car salesman was already raising chickens in his back yard in San Jose when he walked into Alex's 49ers Inn on Christmas Eve and elbowed his way to the bar where they sell $2 beers, $2 well drinks and double-shots of whisky for the price of one. He bought two $10 Scratchers game tickets.

Following the instructions, the 50-year-old scratched off the silvery paint on the tickets and discovered one was worth $1 million. That's before taxes. After taxes, he said he'll get about $750,000.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," he recalled after California Lottery officials announced his win. "It was a little dark in there."

Chicken rancher

A regular at Alex's for years, Brown said he would buy a few to several Scratchers game tickets every week. The bar will receive $5,000 for selling him the winner, or the equivalent of serving up 2,500 cheap beers at the joint.

Manager Charlene Schaupp said the bar's take will just go into the till.

"Our main deal is a happy hour all day and karaoke every day."

Brown waited almost seven weeks to redeem his ticket while he consulted with his lawyer and accountant on how best to make his money last and grow. He doesn't have an investment plan, at least not yet, but the single father wants to spend some on his two daughters, ages 27 and 5. And he wants to add more chickens to the 25 he already has at home in unincorporated Santa Clara County.

"It all started with one rooster I got as a gift."

He said he might buy a bigger spread out of the area, one big enough for a genuine chicken ranch and a Teacup pig or two for his youngest daughter to raise as a pet. Teacups are to porkers what pocket dogs are to the canine set.

Good karma

"I don't think I'm going to retire," Brown said. "I'm probably going to work part-time."

Brown said he sold Ferrari sports cars for 26 years, most recently at a dealership in Los Gatos, before taking a sabbatical to care for a dying friend, Joseph Izzo. A former Mercury News food critic and screenwriter, Izzo died last year from complications of cancer.

A die-hard hockey and football fan, Brown said he can now afford the price of 49ers season tickets for opening day at the team's new stadium in Santa Clara.

"The Super Bowl loss was hard," he said. "We'll be back next year."

And now he can afford those tickets too.

Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767.