Portales residents are mistaken if they think a reward sign for a giant piece of pizza is a practical joke, according to Papa Murphy's Take and Bake Pizza co-owner Oma Jones.
Jones said the restaurant's $1,000 mascot, Pepe, was stolen Thursday night from Greyhound Arena during an Eastern New Mexico University basketball game.
"We were a corporate sponsor for the basketball games against Texas A&M Kingsville and Pepe was just walking around," Jones said. "Everybody likes to get pictures with the pizza."
Jones said in between the women's and men's basketball games, Papa Murphy's employee Alex Herrera placed the suit in a bag, which was left in an arena hallway near faculty offices. When Herrera went to retrieve the suit for the second game, it was gone.
"It's a sad day when we have corporate supporters like Papa Murphy's coming out to our games and supporting our athletic department then one of our so-called fans proceeds to steal from them," said ENMU athletic director Jeff Geiser. "It's on the same scale as a lady's Christmas tree being stolen in the 'Christmas spirit.'" We hope that whoever took it will come to their senses."
Jones said the Pepe suit has been with the business for the last year, with the mascot appearing in parades, athletic events and school functions.
She said the suit is shared between the Clovis and Portales restaurants.
"At first I thought it was just a joke someone was playing but then we searched the whole Greyhound Arena and couldn't find it anywhere," Jones said. "If someone will bring him back in the same condition, we won't ask any questions; we'll just take him and give them the reward."
Jones declined to give the exact amount of the cash reward.
Herrera said the entire community has seemed to react to the theft.
"A lot of people have asked about it coming into the store, like 'what happened' and 'oh no, I can't believe someone stole it,'" Herrera said. "I know it means a lot to us."
Jones said she filed a police report with the ENMU Police Department and they are also sending out notifications about the reward.
She said her only concern is getting the suit back in good condition.
"The whole community is really trying to help out. Eastern's been very helpful," Jones said.
Jones said anyone with information regarding the suit can contact her at the restaurant.