What should have been a brisk ninth day for Porter’s Neck eatery Cast Iron Kitchen was instead a day closed to diners after vandals broke into the restaurant by smashing the front door.
Josh Petty, chef and owner of the Cast Iron Kitchen, said he went to the restaurant at about 5 a.m. Tuesday to open up for the day and noticed one of the doors was completely shattered. Someone had broken into the restaurant located at 8024 Market St., Unit 7, in the Sweetwater Landing shopping center, either late night Monday or early morning Tuesday with the help of an outside planter.
“They used a cast iron cauldron that was a planter box with herbs and peppers,” Petty said. “They picked it up and threw it through the door.”
It was a disappointing turn in what had been a solid first week of business, Petty said, which had been steady since opening day the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend and backed up by good patron response.
Petty said he went inside to take a look around and noticed that the cash drawer was missing from the server area right beside the kitchen.
After a brief look-through and initial shock of what had happened to his new restaurant, Petty called for deputies with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. According to sheriff’s office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer, investigators responded and gathered fingerprints and footprints from the scene.
Petty described the break-in as a “bust-in-grab,” adding that nothing really was inside the cash drawer. Brewer said the break-in had more estimated property damage to the door, which in the report was estimated at about $300.
While the business isn’t open to customers on Mondays, the last employee left the business later Monday evening, Petty said. The break-in would have happened sometime between 8 p.m. Monday and 5 a.m. Tuesday.
“It could have been a lot worse…it’s not going to happened again,” Petty said, adding that he is going to “heighten up” security at the restaurant and join the group of businesses in the shopping center to get the landlord to add security to the property, as well.
An image of the planter, along with the shattered door was posted to Petty’s Facebook page on Tuesday to let customers know what had happened and that the restaurant wouldn’t be open. Even so, a few customers had to be turned away from restaurant’s location Tuesday, he said.
“We were talking to every guest that drove up to let them know what happened. I felt bad that I couldn’t serve the public today, but we’re just taking it in stride and not letting it get us down and stay positive,” Petty said.
Brewer said newly opened businesses are often vulnerable to intruders. Many business are still establishing themselves in the initial opening phase, and some do not have the proper security – such as alarms and cameras – set up yet, which makes them an easy target.
But new businesses don’t have to remain vulnerable. The sheriff’s office offers a “Servery Security” program for both homes and businesses through its Community Awareness and Prevention Unit, Brewer said.
The program is a free service to the community that provides security surveys to homeowners and businesses. Through the program, a home owner or business owner can have a deputy come out, inspect the property and recommend improvements to keep both the citizen and property safe. To learn more about the services of the CAP unit click here.
Fortunately, Brewer said, some evidence was left behind in this case that detectives can utilize to either identify through felony records or match to prints taken from other break-ins.
“We usually catch them…detectives work day in and day out to get something together and get them into custody,” Brewer said of investigations like the one that’s now being conducted on Petty’s restaurant.
“It was more property damage in my opinion than anything,” Petty said. “It was just one of those things. After a good first week of business…and then have that. But luckily, they really didn’t take much.”
Cast Iron Kitchen officially opened its doors on Saturday, May 28. The 75-seat eatery has full-service bar and dine-in area, Petty said. The restaurant also offers take out.
Cast Iron Kitchen will be prepared to open their doors at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Petty said. The restaurant is open from 6:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.
The investigation into the break-in at Cast Iron Kitchen is ongoing. Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office at 910-798-4162 or submit an anonymous tip on the sheriff’s office website.