NORFOLK, VA–Paul Krug, owner and manager of a Norfolk-area Bob's Big Boy, is deeply puzzled by Monday's theft of a giant fiberglass statue from the grounds of his restaurant.

Paul Krug, standing at the spot where his restaurant's recently stolen Big Boy statue had stood for years.

"Why the heck would anybody want to steal my Big Boy?" said Krug, staring at the four rusted bolts which had long anchored the oversized cartoon hamburger spokesman. "It just doesn't make any sense."

A fixture since the restaurant's opening in 1982, the grinning, pompadoured Big Boy statue was first reported missing at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday by first-shift manager Christine Yoakam.

"As soon as I pulled into the parking lot, I knew something was wrong, but I just couldn't quite put my finger on it," said Yoakam, 33, who joined the Bob's Big Boy team in May 1996 after a four-year stint at a Norfolk-area Applebee's. "It wasn't until about 20 minutes later, when I was out picking up some trash in front of the store, that I realized the Big Boy was missing from his platform on the lawn."

Krug is offering a $100 reward for any information leading to the statue's return. The Big Boy is described as a nine-foot, 200-pound, trademarked corporate icon wearing red-and-white checkered overalls and holding aloft a double-decker cheeseburger.

"I just don't get it," Krug said. "That statue has no value to anyone but me. Why on earth would anybody have any interest in taking it?"

If the statue is not recovered, under the terms of the Big Boy franchise charter, Krug will have to replace it himself at a cost of $650.

"They give you one when you buy the franchise, but after that, you're fully responsible for its upkeep and maintenance," Krug said. "I hate to think about the loss of business I'm going to suffer in the four to six weeks it takes to order a new one from regional headquarters in Charlottesville. That statue is a real eye-catcher for potential customers driving past on Highway 112."

Added Krug: "It couldn't have been easy to move. I never even touch it, except when I hose it down every spring."

The last restaurant employee to see the Big Boy was late-shift assistant manager Doug Gulden, 41, who told Norfolk police officials that the statue was there when he locked up Monday night. "It was definitely there when I left, because I turned off its spotlight," Gulden said.

Though no witnesses to the crime have been found, Gail Budig, 64, who lives a block away from the Bob's Big Boy, told police that she heard laughter, shouting and car horns coming from the vicinity of the restaurant late Monday night.

"There was something going on over there, that's for sure," Budig said. "Whoever those thieves were, they certainly could have been quieter."

According to Norfolk police officials, the Big Boy theft may be linked to a string of similar crimes to hit the Norfolk region this year. In March, an apron-wearing, molded-fiberglass chicken was stolen from the roof of a local Cluck 'N' Shake restaurant. During Homecoming Week in May, a giant, anthropomorphic frozen confection named King Kone disappeared from the Portage Road Tastee Freeze and was found five days later at the bottom of a nearby quarry. The perpetrators were never found in either case.

"I just hope they find whoever did this," Krug said. "They've got a lot of explaining to do."