TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As David Martin walked into his restaurant Friday morning to prepare for a competition with his fellow chefs, he didn't know the heartache that would be waiting for him.
Red Desert BBQ on Prince Road near Fairview Avenue had been burglarized. Equipment and Martin's first smoker that started him on his small business venture were gone.
"That's a person's livelihood," he said. "That's like taking a mechanic's tools."
Only Martin's tools are heavy. His 1,200-pound smoker is still behind its fenced-off area, but his smaller 400-pound smoker was hauled away on a truck.
He called police, then his wife and finally his business partners. They checked surveillance video. There was plenty to see, but not enough to easily identify anyone's face or license plate.
Before the restaurant's grand opening several weeks ago, Martin built a designated area for this two smokers. There's a roof, fencing and locks.
"I was naive for thinking nobody would bother them, so I'm not going to make that mistake twice," he said."
He's thrown away garbage and needles found behind his restaurant. He's chased off vagr ants hanging around the alley. But Martin believes whoever broke the lock and returned with other people hours later to haul away his equipment knew what they were doing, because of how well they hid themselves from the cameras.
Martin said Stumps Smokers don't come cheap or quickly. He said it takes months for the custom-ordered smokers. He figures his two were the only ones in Tucson, so anyone who notices a blue one in their neighborhood should contact the Tucson Police Department. A police report has already been filed.
While he handled the paperwork, Martin's cooking partner prepared their nachos for the Arizona Bowl Nacho Average Tailgate competition. He considered cutting his losses and calling it a day, but Martin pushed through.
Now a First place trophy stands tall at the Red Desert BBQ counter. Martin said winning was a bright spot for such a dark, miserable day. The restaurant reopened on Saturday to crowds of people eager to checkout the nacho champ's full menu.
Martin is holding out hope that the smoker is returned, but his business will manage with just the big one for now.
"We're not going to show anybody that you can come in and beat us and dictate what we're going to do," he said. "Red Desert BBQ is going to be around a long time."