How the trash talk on a storefront sign in Virginia led to a friendly battle across the Canada-U.S. Border
It started with a spontaneous poster outside a music store in a town in southwest Virginia.
“Hey Super Shoes! Do you want to start a war of signs? Jim Bohon, music teacher at Bridge Kaldro Music in Christiansburg, Va., wrote on the store’s marquee on April 16.
Bohon said there was no real reason for the post other than that he wanted to spark some fun in the city of just over 22,000 residents.
“I just thought it would be pretty cool to have a good back and forth with the neighbors,” said Bohon, 29, adding that the two stores have always had a friendly relationship. Still, “I honestly didn’t even know if Super Shoes was going to respond.”
Three days later, however, the nearby shoe store fired back: “Hey Bridge Kaldro! Our shoe strings are stronger than your guitar strings. “
It was the game.
As neighbors exchanged soft insults on their respective brands, surrounding businesses – from pharmacies to funeral homes, dental offices to churches – began ringing with their own blows.
“As soon as I saw them do it, I knew I was going to give it a go,” said Yoshi Koeda, owner of Kabuki Japanese Steak House just across the street.
“You have to do B-sharp to make good Shoe-shi and we won’t put you on,” Koeda wrote on the sign outside his restaurant.
Soon, “everyone in our whole town joined us. Even people who don’t have signs started printing and putting them up, ”Koeda said.
Shrewdness and puns suddenly took over the streets of Christiansburg.
“I wasn’t expecting any of this,” Bohon said.
While Bohon was simply seeking friendly competition with his store neighbor, he unwittingly sparked a brand war – not only within his own community of Christiansburg, but also in Listowel, Ontario – a small town in Canada with a population. of about 7,500 inhabitants.
The cross-border fight began when Trevor Cork, owner of Speedy Glass, an auto glass store in Listowel, caught wind of the Virginia Sign War and decided to start one in his own community.
“Why not?” Cork, 37, remembers thinking to himself after meeting the Christiansburg contest on Facebook. His first target: Dairy Queen.
On April 26, he put “Hey DQ Wants to Have a Sign War” on his trade marquee. Less than 20 minutes later, he received a response from his neighbor in the store: “You bet your drink does.”
As in Christiansburg, Listowel’s War of the Signs quickly spread throughout the city, soon spreading to neighboring communities.
“There are thousands of signs at this point,” Cork said. After just three days, “every business in our community signed up.”
But the competition really ignited, he said, when a war of signs erupted not only between neighboring companies, but between neighboring countries.
Indeed, when Koeda, owner of the Japanese restaurant in Virginia, heard that a Canadian city was copying its community’s contest, “I decided to call Ontario. I thought I could create an international war of signs and start a friendly battle, ”he said. “It’s getting better than I expected.”
His first sign featured classic Canadian stereotypes: “Canadians are trying to join the Sign War, eh? You get on moose for Uber on the right… take it on Ontario !! “
Koeda soon learned, however, that her neighbors to the north don’t, in fact, mount moose.
“I made this mistake and people wanted to step in and respond,” he said.
Cork replied, “Hey Kabuki, the gloves are off. More from Mr. Rice Guy. Dairy Queen also retaliated, posting, “Hey Virginia, you might have Kabuki, but we have Suzuki, eh!”
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The ongoing sign war between Christiansburg and Listowel has been fought virtually on Facebook, with each city having a designated group where businesses share their signs targeting other stores, both locally and in the opposite city.
the Christiansburg Group has nearly 30,000 members, and the Listowel Group has nearly 4,500. While there is technically no winner in the Sign Wars, there are plenty of pseudo-judges on Facebook commenting on every post. People got so invested in the war that many ventured into the cities to take selfies on the “front lines” of the skirmish.
“It’s amazing how he’s gone anywhere outside of Christiansburg, let alone across the borders,” Bohon said.
Along with residents of both communities, the Sign Wars now has followers from more than 30 countries around the world, said Anthony Woodyard, a bereavement counselor at a Virginia hospice agency that started the booming Facebook group. from Christiansburg several weeks ago.
“He’s really gotten a lot of momentum,” said Woodyard, 29. “It’s just something fun and light during a time when there was a lot of darkness and isolation. We want to help spread positivity for as long as possible. “
In addition, he added, “It has been a free opportunity for us to market our businesses locally. I would encourage other cities to join the war. “
Besides giving people a reason to laugh, he said, the War of the Signs has produced unexpected benefits for small businesses, many of which are still reeling from the pandemic.
“It helped a lot,” Koeda said. “I didn’t even know some of these companies existed, but now I’m getting to know them through the War of Signs.”
The best part, however, is that the melee of signs has fostered a bizarre bond between two cities on opposite sides of the Canada-U.S. Border, as well as thousands of foreigners across the world who are tickled by the friendly fight.
“We’re like the best bud towns now, 700 miles apart,” Koeda said. “We were actually able to make some real friendships.”