ROCK HILL - Ebenezer Grill owner Loyd Ardrey got a shock Wednesday morning when he discovered that his big weenie was missing.
Someone made off with the 12-foot-long smiling hot dog sign that proclaims the name of his restaurant at 1525 Ebenezer Road.
Ardrey said the 35-pound aluminum sign had been sitting atop the roof as usual when he left the restaurant around 4 p.m. on Tuesday. But it was nowhere to be found when he arrived at 6 a.m. Wednesday.
"The first thing I noticed (was) that thing was gone," Ardrey said. "I figured, well, maybe it blew off because we had some storms last night. We looked around, and it wasn't in any yards next door or across the street or anything."
So Ardrey called the police to report the sign stolen.
"That thing had a lot of screws in it, and it was evident that the screws had been taken out," said Lt. Jerry Waldrop, with the Rock Hill police.
Ardrey said he suspects that some college or high school students took the sign as a prank or fraternity initiation.
"I'm expecting some mother to go out in the yard or in the garage and say, `Hey, you've got to take this sign back,' " he said. "I'm hoping that's what happens."
A hot dog sign has marked the Ebenezer Road restaurant for years, Ardrey said, even before he bought the restaurant a little less than two years ago. He said he'd spent $750 to replace the previous sign with a similar reclining hot dog after he'd been there for half a year.
"People refer to it around here," he said. "We've got a lot of professional offices nearby, and they use that when people are asking how to get to their office. They'll say, "Do you know where the big weenie is?' "
Stealing the sign is considered petty larceny, which could mean a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine, according to Rock Hill police.
"I don't want to get some kid in trouble," Ardrey said. "If they're sorry and it comes back in good condition, I wouldn't press charges. Saying I'm sorry goes a long way with me."
Ardrey said he'll buy another sign if it doesn't turn up. He's also planning to offer a reward for it, though he said he's not sure what.
"It depends on what condition the sign is in and who brings it in," he said. "If they want money, I'll give them money. If they want hot dogs, I'll give them hot dogs.
"I just want my weenie back."