Welcome Home Chili!
GAINESVILLE - One red hot chili pepper is making a come back. Last weekend, we brought you the story of a UF student who got a hold of the man-sized Chili's pepper logo on the front of the restaurant on Archer Road when the chain started it's remodeling process.
But the pepper was stolen from the young man's apartment complex several nights later, and the weeks that follow have been quite the journey for Daniel Helfrich and his efforts to get the chili pepper back.
This is the story of young man and his quest to find a red hot chili pepper. Not the band but a 200 pound, 5 foot long pepper made out of fiberglass from the restaurant, Chili's.
"Everyone seems to think it's pretty much a joke and it is kind of funny I guess but he really does want his chili back," said Ellen Toneff, Helfrich’ girlfriend.
Last month, Helfrich and his girlfriend acquired the pepper during a lunch date after bartering with the renovation crew at Chili's who were going to get rid of the pepper anyways. They traded four powerades in return for the man-sized icon. However before Helfrich could manage to get the pepper inside of his apartment, it was stolen.
"I honestly did not… I saw that the cameras at pavilion and decided to go talk to pavilion management about it, about getting the recordings to try to look through. But I felt like I was probably going to have to get the police involved," Helfrich said.
Through social media, Chili's corporate office found out about the whole ordeal. To make it up to him, they invited him and his friends for dinner. But what helfrich didn't know was the surprise that awaited him outside.
Robert Butmankiewicz the Chili's area director said, "After the pepper got stolen, we found out that it miraculously showed up in the parking lot with a sticky note that said, return to the right owner."
"So I really didn't think I would get it back. But I am very excited now. I am very happy about this chili," Helfrich said.
Butmankiewicz said this is a unique situation. "Never heard of the pepper being taken, stolen, stolen again and then returned to it's rightful owner," Butmankiewicz added.
Helfrich along with the help of six friends was able to successfully hoist the pepper up to his balcony because it did not fit through his apartment door. Helfrich's birthday is on Sunday and he says there's no better gift than getting his pepper back.
"I just want to say happy birthday and there's a lot of people that keep together and you know whoever is out there that took that pepper we're glad you brought it back."
If you're wondering what's in store for this chili pepper, well Helfrich plans to dress it up for various occasions. He even wants to get the pepper a customized Santa Claus hat for the holidays.
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