Car drives through Little Pigs

Lunch never came for customers at Little Pigs Barbecue on Tuesday after a woman drove her car through the building's exterior brick walls.

"I'd thought a bomb had gone off," said Esther Martin, 78, of Newton, who was waiting on a hot dog and iced tea when the car came barreling through the building. "I didn't even get to eat lunch."

Officers said Cheryl Craig, 50, of Claremont, finished eating at Little Pigs when she was backing her 1995 Ford Crown Victoria out of the restaurant's left-side parking lot. When Craig hit a light pole while in reverse, she put the car into drive and "took off" through the restaurant's left side, said Newton Police Capt. Kevin Yarborough.

Neither Craig nor any customers were hurt in the accident.

Martin, who eats with friends at Little Pigs every Tuesday, was one of two customers in Little Pigs at the time of the accident. Both customers were sitting on the opposite side of where the car entered the building.

Martin said her lunch group usually sits on the side where the accident occurred.

"When it came through, we just got up and out as quickly as possible," Martin said. "It was just a really scary thing."

Like Martin, Little Pigs employee Andy Sigmon, 18, of Newton, also thought a bomb exploded.

"I heard the boom, and I didn't know if it was terrorists or what," Sigmon said. "I was shaking the fries when I smelled the smoke and saw the car."

Sigmon said Craig tried to get out of the car immediately, but was advised to remain in the vehicle until paramedics arrived on the scene.

Brandy Banks, 28, of Newton, also works at Little Pigs and was about to put a hamburger on the grill when she heard the crash.

"I thought we were blown up," Banks said. "I was squatting at the refrigerator getting a hamburger out, and when it came through, I jumped up and ran to the back of the restaurant. I'm not going to lie, I was scared."

Little Pigs Manager Steve Higgs, 34, of Conover, rushed all of his employees to the back of the store when Craig's car entered the building. Higgs said one person drove into the front of the store in the past, but said it was only minor.

"It's a miracle she wasn't hurt," Higgs said.

Newton Police Chief Don Brown said Craig was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision — a "minor infraction."

This isn't the first time Little Pigs Barbecue has suffered misfortune.

Higgs, who has worked at the restaurant since 1993, said a fire destroyed most of the building about 10 years ago.

"Business had been picking back up, and we've worked long and hard to get things changed," Higgs said. "We're hoping we can get it opened back up soon, but it's just really heartbreaking."

Despite suffering damage to the restaurant's brick exterior, inside tables and several booths, Little Pigs Owner Mike Stancil thinks it can be fixed within a matter of days.

"We don't have structure issues, and the electricity is fine and working," Stancil said. "It just looks like we're going to be cleaning up some things for a while."

It was unknown, as of press time Tuesday, what Little Pigs Barbecue's hours will be for the rest of the week.