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A Fiat Fantasy

Posted on 08 January 2014

ted and teddy

By Annette Hinkle

Osman Popovic, a native of Montegreno, has worked at The American Hotel in Sag Harbor for 23 years. And on December 24, Popovic, a waiter, got a Christmas bonus from his boss, Ted Conklin, like no other — a brand new Fiat convertible.

Chalk it all up to the power of positive thinking.

It all started with a raffle at the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum for a 2013 Fiat 500 Cabrio Pop. The raffle netted some $5,000 for the museum, including $500 from Conklin who bought five tickets at $100 each, and the drawing for the car was slated for noon on December 23.

Conklin told Dawn Kiernan, a manager at the hotel, that if he won, he would raffle the car off to one of the hotel’s year round employees.

“I thought it was a fun idea,” said Kiernan. “He proceeded to make this big bulletin about the car and the raffle and what his intentions were. He gave it to me and told me he wanted to do it for morale.”

“Immediately, I hung up the poster and started writing everyone’s name on a piece of paper,” says Kiernan. “Only one waiter was like, ‘What if he doesn’t win?’ I said, ‘Of course he’s going to win… it’s Ted.’”

“The way Ted and I felt, it was like there was no chance he was not going to win the car,” says Kiernan. “We had this excited feeling this is going to happen.”

“It never occurred to us that we might not win,” she adds.

Sure enough, at noon on December 23 on the lawn of the Whaling Museum, out of 225 tickets, guest drawer Nada Barry pulled Conklin’s name as the winner.

And true to his word, on Christmas Eve at 5 p.m., just before the onslaught of 200 patrons who had reserved for the hotel’s special prix fixe dinner, the staff gathered in the main dining room where Conklin’s son, Teddy, did the honors by pulling the name of the lucky winner of the car from a hat.

It was Osman Popovic.

“Fiat is a car I grew up with in Montenegro, which is near Italy where Fiat is made,” notes Popovoic. “In the 1970s as a kid, I always wanted one. I never thought I’d have one when I was 50 years old.”

“It was funny, the day before I told my wife this was going to happen, she said, ‘Make sure this car is mine,’” says Popovic. “It was a joke. But it just made my holidays perfect.”

For her part, in the end, Kiernan is not surprised things worked out the way they did.

“There was no doubt. It’s the power of positive thinking and I think that’s a beautiful lesson here,” she says. “Everyone’s always saying your thoughts become your reality. You can’t speak defeat and expect victory. When you are grateful and think of abundance, that’s the thing.”

“I think Ted’s intentions were so good,” she adds. “He thought, ‘How fun would that be when I win this car? I’ll raffle it off and someone here will win a car.’”

“There’s something to be said for that.”

While it would be nice to wrap up this story with an image of Osman Popovic driving through Sag Harbor in his new Fiat — the car of his childhood dreams back in Montenegro — it’s not quite reality.

In fact, Popovic gave the car to his wife, Sher.

She promptly upgraded to a Jeep Cherokee.

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