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48 HOURS OF FOOTBALL: Hitt Street minimarket sells high volume of vodka on football weekends

Friday, October 28, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 8:28 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 28, 2011

Hour 19: 11:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22

Standing behind the counter, Atul Kumar Patel makes his presence known to every customer who walks in the door of Hitt Street Market.

His heavy, black eyebrows narrow every time a young customer walks in the door, triggering a chime. The store’s regulars are greeted with a smile and a "How are you doing?"

He watches every customer as they browse the minimart. When he can’t see them his eyes glance up toward one of the two monitors that gives him a view of every inch of the store. He has learned the tricks people try to pull on busy football weekends.

Almost every customer wears either black or gold. Whether the team wins or loses almost seems irrelevant to these fans. As long as they have alcohol to accompany whatever the game may bring, they will have a good time. The store sells more vodka on football weekends than anything else. Patel says he tries to carry a variety of cheaper options because students don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Patel’s face softens when the store is empty. His guard comes down, and he talks with a light in his eyes about his family. He puts a lot of time into his family-run minimart.

He’s not a fan of football. He doesn’t understand it, but his children do. They don’t play football in India, where Patel was born. He says the main sport is cricket.

Drinking is also a different sport in India, Patel said.

“People drink but not like here,” he said.

He pulls out a stack of fake IDs he’s collected from customers recently and shakes his head in silence.

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