A Sign War Between A Few Local Businesses Gets Slightly Out of Hand (In the Best Way)
If you keep up with the latest news, your brain will be full of knowledge about conflicts, tragedies, and atrocities. While it is important to understand what’s going on around the world, it’s equally important to avoid focusing only on the negative. That’s why we’re here with your daily dose of fun, quirky, interesting, and hilarious news from all around the world.
Today, we’re taking you to a small town in the US where two stores went to war in the most ridiculous way. Their sign war started off as a way to have fun with a classic advertising technique. However, it quickly blew up, pulling towns all over North America into the fray. Read on for full coverage of the most ridiculous war ever fought.
True Miracles Do Happen
The infamous Virginia Sign War started in one of the most innocuous places you could imagine – a music store. To be precise, it was Bridge Kaldro Music in Christiansburg, Virginia. An employee had been sitting on an idea for some time until, finally, he brought it up with his boss.
Ed Bridge – the boss and owner of the store – was taken aback at first as the employee was talking about going to war. However, after the employee explained the logic behind his “Sign War” concept, Bridge was all for it.
A Fateful Decision
Little did Ed know that this seemingly innocent decision would make his little music store famous. Looking back on the events that followed, he told CBN News, “I’m just so humbled because this is bigger than my little music store.”
If you’re wondering why Ed was being interviewed on the news, it’s because his sign war (which we’ll see evidence of later) went viral. Soon, other businesses were catching on and throwing down challenges of their own.
A New Sign Battle Breaks Out
The sign war phenomenon traveled as far as Canada, where a Speedy Glass store in Listowel, Ontario, jumped in on the action. Owner Trevor Cork encouraged the local small business community to get involved, and soon, they were reaping the rewards of virality.
As a viral marketing strategy, sign wars deliver big wins for everyone. Customers and local residents get to enjoy a giggle while the business owners enjoy a boost to their profits. Sign wars also create a sense of community, with local business owners all supporting each other.
Let the Battle Begin
Speedy Glass owner Trevor Cork’s first target was the local Dairy Queen. He kicked off his first “attack” with a saucy challenge: “Hey DQ, wanna have a sign war?” While he had seen the viral success of the Virginia Sign War, he still had no idea how big this thing would get.
You might assume that the war was pre-arranged beforehand. However, Cork says he “took a shot at them in the dark.” Thankfully, DQ shot back quickly. Cork was delighted to see that they came in hot with a brilliant pun: “You bet your glass we do.”
The owner of the local DQ, Amy Hamilton, was pleased with their clever opening line. However, she was quick to admit that she didn’t come up with it herself. It wasn’t even one of her employees. It was actually a drive-thru customer who made the suggestion.
Speedy Glass returned fire, changing their sign to say, “fire up the grill, we’re about to toast your buns.” Determined not to be out-classed (or should we say out-glassed?), DQ responded with, “our ice cream is smoother than your lines.” Ouch!
How to Win a Sign War
After Speedy Glass accused DQ of getting salty,” Dairy Queen took the opportunity to plug one of their products, saying, “hmm, salty like our pretzel sticks.” The people of Listowel were, by this time, looking forward to their daily commute, hoping to see an update on the signs.
DQ owners Amy Hamilton told CBC News that, while fun, the battle wasn’t easy. Apparently, the Speedy Glass team was up early, so they always got in the first jab of the day. Thankfully, DQ had a powerful secret weapon on their side: their customers. As Amy explained, “We have great fans with a million ideas still.”
The Sign War Expands Into New Territory
DQ and Speedy Glass were so involved in their battle that they were taken completely by surprise when a new player entered the game. Members of the local fire department had been watching the war with interest, and since they had their own sign ready and waiting, they decided to join the fun.
The North Perth Fire Department usually reserves its sign for important notices and updates. However, with nothing urgent to share with the community, they took the opportunity to have some fun, writing, “Hey Speedy Glass and DQ. If this thing gets any hotter, we’ll be ready with hoses and water.”
It’s All Fun and Games in a Sign War
Dairy Queen was quick to acknowledge their new comrade in arms, stating, “Oh, NPFD stuck their hoses in!” DQ’s pun game was certainly on point, and the firefighters were delighted.
The North Perth Fire Department’s Assistant Fire Chief, Jason Benn (pictured above), spoke to CTV News about his involvement in the sign war. He highlighted the community spirit fostered by the town’s “war,” explaining that “it’s really nice to see smiles the signs are putting on people’s faces.”
The Sign War Spreads
The Assistant Fire Chief went on to describe how proud he was of their involvement in the “friendly banter between businesses and community partners.” “As you can see by our sign,” he said, “this is our mic drop moment.”
Soon enough, every small business on the block wanted to have its say. Corley Sports Excellence pleaded, “add us to the sign war because we’re good sports.” Meanwhile, 365 Auto & Pet Wash threatened that they would run Speedy Glass and DQ through the wash if they weren’t careful.
The local funeral home chipped in with their “grave mistake” quip, which is the epitome of gallows humor! The Listowel Agricultural Society made their version of a Sign Wars hashtag, accompanied by their own hilarious pun.
Listowel Vision Care joined in with a pun of their own, only to be shot down by Speedy Glass with this epic comeback: “You keep getting cornea and cornea.” Hint: Say it aloud if you don’t yet get the pun.
Who Won the Sign War?
The big question on everyone’s mind was, “will there be a winner to this sign war?” As we’ve seen so far, there were plenty of contenders. Indeed, we wouldn’t want to have to choose between them!
Listowel Vision Care was just happy to get a participation trophy, saying to Speedy Glass (the originators of the sign war), “Hey Speedy! Thanks for noticing. Glad we crack you up!” With talk of a winner heating up in the community, Speedy Glass quipped, “DQ might win. Anything is popsicle.”
Though some people were talking about selecting a winner, so many businesses were jumping in that it was becoming harder and harder to determine who was on top. Even businesses without a prominent sign were having their say.
The sign war was growing bigger by the day, and no end was in sight. A local car dealership called Stop 23 came in hot with a jab at Speedy Glass, saying, “no cracks in our glass.” Even the BMO bank got involved!
War on Wheels
A business called Cross Heating & Air Conditioning added a new dimension to the sign war, plastering signs on their work trucks and vans. You can see an example in the image below.
“It’s all in good fun,” their sign reads, “no one has to get cross about it.” A local law firm also chimed in around this time. Tarbush Dickey Giller & Associates changed their sign to read, “hey DQ and Speedy! If these sign wars get out of hand, we might need to litigate!”
Signs Hidden in Plain Sight
While the mobile messages and the large street signs were prominent and easy to spot, many businesses put smaller, sneakier signs into the public domain. This turned the sign war into a fun scavenger hunt, with Listowel residents excitedly sharing their finds on social media.
The North Perth Family Health Team and the North Perth Spinrite Child & Family Center both contributed to the scavenger hunt side of the Sign War with the small signs you can see in the pictures above.
The Sign War Goes Global
The virality of the Listowel Sign War quickly spread well beyond the borders of the town. Soon, people all over the world were giggling at the signs shared on social media. The Sign War had officially become a global phenomenon.
Journalists from as far abroad as the UK started contacting the local businesses. Speedy Glass owner Trevor Cork even spoke with the BBC – one of Britain’s most prominent publications. He couldn’t believe how famous this idea had made his small Canadian town.
On the Global Stage
Speaking to the BBC, Cork said, “There are thousands of signs on local businesses from our town alone to neighboring towns and cities and counties.” The Sign War had officially gone global, and the humble business owner was amazed that it all came from one simple idea.
Cork was delighted to note that “there hasn’t been one negative comment. The reaction has been absolutely amazing.” The result for his business was also 100% positive. “We’re getting people stopping into my business just to say thank you for making them smile,” he said.
A Good News Story
In a world filled with real wars and conflict, the Sign War offered an innocent moment of silliness that everyone could share in enjoying. No business was ever left out if they wanted to take part, and the jabs they took at each other were friendly.
As the pandemic took off, the importance of the Sign War only grew. In Cork’s words, “people are laughing together again and smiling at each other. It’s brought our community very close.”
A Happy Distraction During Troubled Times
The world can be a tough place to live in at times, but stories like this remind us of how sweet and community-minded humans can be. Yes, we certainly can be awful to each other at times, but we’re also capable of an immense amount of kindness. And we invented puns!
It wasn’t just the small businesses of Listowel who were enjoying and benefiting from the sign war. As one Facebook user wrote, the Sign War was “a blessing for this community!”
Spreading Good Vibes
The same Facebook user praised the Sign War idea for “helping small businesses be seen in this trying time while also giving our community a reason to laugh and come together again.”
Other Facebook users soon chimed in, with one commenting, “I’m loving this!” Many people agreed that they loved driving through town to see what was happening with the signs. Everyone agreed that the vibes created by the Sign War were positive and uplifting. And during the pandemic, we all needed more vibes like that!
A Timeless Concept
Though ideas like this generally fade over time as people gradually lose interest, the Sign War appears to be different. Instead of fading, it has started traveling, becoming a country-wide phenomenon in Canada.
Speaking to the Stratford Beacon Herald, Cork described the Sign War as more of a “pun war.” “It’s friendly banter back and forth between the businesses,” he continued, “and I think it’s southwestern Ontario-wide now.” Cork was talking to the Stratford newspaper because, at that time, their town had recently joined the fray.
The Stratford Sign War
When the Stratford Beacon Herald published their article on the phenomenon, Cork estimated that around 40 to 50 Listowel businesses were engaged in their town’s war. At the time, things were just starting to heat up in Stratford.
The Livery Yard Espresso Bar & Coffee Shop was the first business to kick things off in Stratford. The owner of the coffee shop, Liesa Hartman, said that she found her inspiration online. She loved the idea immediately, seeing it as the perfect way to “bring a community together.”
Liesa certainly wasn’t wrong. We’re used to seeing signs everywhere in the modern world, but they’re usually just trying to sell us something. When a sign gives us a smile or a laugh, it flips our expectations.
So, Liesa decided she had to get the Great Sign War going in Stratford. “I came into the café this morning,” she said, “and I looked up the street and saw no one else had put a sign up yet.” Liesa took the opportunity to be the first to put a witty sign out into the world.
From Stratford, the Sign War continued to spread across Canada. In Waterloo, it drew in an interesting new contender – the local police station! The Waterloo Police also highlighted the Sign War hashtag, encouraging people to tag all their sign war images on social media to make them easy to find.
Aside from their cute DQ attack, the Waterloo police also challenged the region’s fire departments and the Waterloo Paramedic Services. The Sign War was truly getting out of hand!
Kingston Joins the Battle
The war soon spread to Kingston Ontario, and news stations all over Canada clamored for interviews with local residents. Speaking to CTV News Ottawa, Adam Rondeau of local business Daft Brewing said, “people are stopping to take pictures… it’s fun to see people get into it.”
At the time, his brewery was three signs deep, and the back-and-forth was really starting to heat up. The fun of the Sign War was infectious and sorely needed when a more insidious form of infection was spreading across the globe.
Good News Stories
Of course, it’s important to stay abreast of world events, even when they’re not so positive. However, learning about Sign Wars and other lighter topics is crucial if you want to stay grounded and happy.
As one business owner said, “The whole idea is to try to put a smile on people’s faces and try to lighten the mood.” He explained that we’re already exposed to enough doom and gloom. So, the sign war presented “an opportunity to make it a little bit more fun and light-hearted.”
All in Good Fun
When people engage in clever banter, things can occasionally escalate into a more serious conflict. However, this is yet to happen with the Sign War. Every business that gets involved is keeping the banter friendly. However, a few have gotten a bit risque with their signwriting.
OK Auto “attacked” Daft Brewing with a sign that said, “hey Daft, no one buys your beer, they just rent it!” In response, Daft wrote, “he OK Tire, you’ll need more than compliments and lube to win us over” – slightly saucy but all in good fun!
Developing Professional Partnerships
Beyond the fun and games, the Sign War presented local businesses with a fun way to make professional connections. Building business partnerships can be crucial for survival when running a small business, and local economies thrive when small businesses are doing well. So, everyone stands to benefit from initiatives like this.
The sign you see above is from a garden center in Sarnia, Ontario. The store’s owner, Peter Sparks, explained his involvement to CTV News. Sparks said, “everybody seems to be friendly – it’s about building relationships.”
As with all conflicts, it was inevitable that the government would eventually get involved. In this case, everyone agreed that the Sign War was a rare example of a battle that only brings positive results for everyone involved.
The mayor of Sarnia, Mike Bradley, said he has “no complaint on the signs, and if so, I would say lighten up.” Thankfully, he never had to tell anyone to “lighten up.” Instead, like the other residents of his town, he sat back and laughed as the Sign War raged.
The First Sign War
We did promise way back at the beginning of this article that we would show you evidence of the first-ever sign war. It’s now time to deliver on that promise! Below, you can see a snapshot of the first sign created in the Virginia Sign War.
Christiansburg was the location of the first official Sign War, and it all started at Bridge Kaldro Music. An employee asked the owner Ed Bridge if he could start a sign war. And once Ed ascertained that this war would be completely peaceful, he was all for it.
How Do You Start a Sign War?
Together, Ed and his clever employee began crafting their strategy. After all, you should never go into battle without a plan. As you can see from the sign below, they kept their first message simple.
Ed’s first move was the one emulated later by Speedy Glass. He changed his sign to read, “hey Super Shoes, want to start a sign war?” The shoe store was across the street, and though they had no idea if the owner would want to take part, they did know for sure that they would see the sign.
Thankfully, the shoe store owner had a good sense of humor and took no time in crafting a response. Before long, the two stores were locked in a heated battle, with puns ricocheting across the street.
Super Shoes came in hot with a strong-based pun, saying, “hey Bridge Kaldro! Our shoe strings are stronger than your guitar string.” Though they did have to get a bit creative with the “S” of “strings,” the message was clear.
The hilarious comebacks bounced back and forth across the street, and gradually, more and more local residents noticed what was going on. Before long, it was the talk of the town.
People stopped by to see the latest shots fired, and they began snapping pics to share on social media. The sign above was one of the more popular ones because as funny as it is, it also rings true. Excuse us while we open a new tab to browse for guitars so we can improve our chances of getting a date!
If in Doubt, Create a Pun
The best contributions to the Sign War are always pun-based, and the Super Shoes sign below is a perfect example. Does it get any better than “solemates?” We don’t think so!
This sign took things a step further, upgrading their pun by including it in a rhyme: “Keep your play dates, we specialize in solemates.” That Super Shoes sign truly was masterful! They clearly have a pun specialist and a poetry expert on their team.
A Community Event
As we saw with the Canadian Sign War, the original Virginia-based Sign War quickly attracted the attention of other local businesses. And, just like in Canada, the community spirit was strong. No one who wanted to participate was ever left out.
In fact, Bridge Kaldro was often the one responsible for bringing new businesses into the battle. In the sign you see above, they managed to strike two businesses at once, hitting Super Shoes with the “what a ‘croc’” quip and challenging a new business by gently criticizing their sign.
Kabuki Gets Involved
The new business was a Japanese restaurant called Kabuki, and they hit back with a masterful sign that struck all their competitors at once. It was punny as heck and perfectly crafted.
After Bridge Kaldro’s statement, “IDK what stinks worse, your shoes or Kabuki’s sign,” the Japanese restaurant replied, “You got to B-sharp to make good shoe-shi an [sic] we won’t string you along.” Impressively, Kabuki even included an emoji and a musical note to set the scene.
Raising the Bar
For a newcomer to the game, Kabuki was on fire, coming in strong and fast with its clever signs. We were particularly impressed by the one below which, once again, targets all competitors in one clever stanza.
Kabuki took the Sign War to a new level, forcing everyone to up their respective games. Bridge Kaldro had unsuspectingly drawn in a pun-perfecting professional. Had they bitten off more than they could shoe? (Not the greatest pun, but kind of relevant!)
Swapping Puns for Poetry
Puns and poetry are your main weapons in a sign war, and the Christiansburg Pharmacy picked up on this fact immediately. So, they slipped into the battle with a rhyme of their own.
Music, shoes, and food are fine, but your health is on our mind.” This was a cute entry into the battle, but it doesn’t even come close to touching the cleverness of Kabuki’s signs. Still, everyone is equal in a Sign War!
The Scariest Sign
Leave it to an accounting firm to take the Sign War to a dark place. Hunt & Associate, LLC reminded everyone of how terrifying the IRS can be – as if any of us needed a reminder about that!
The idea of being audited is so terrifying that we wouldn’t dream of trying to handle our taxes ourselves. We happily hand everything over to the experts, and we suppose that’s what Hunt & Associate were trying to encourage the people of Christiansburg to do.
Everyone in Christiansburg Got Involved
Before long, there was barely a business in Christiansburg, Virginia, that wasn’t taking part in the Sign War. Even the Hampton Inn slid into the action with the cute sign you can see in the image below.
Nearby, a Christiansburg gas station offered to “fuel the sign warz [sic].” With so many businesses taking part, driving around Christiansburg became a fun game of “spot the sign” for local residents. As they shared their discoveries on social media, the popularity of the game grew.
Lawson Mobile Home Supply took an old-school approach to their entry into the Sign War. They kicked off with a classic bar joke, writing” A musician, shoe salesman, pharmacist, and barber walk into Kabuki. [The] bartender says, ‘this could be a sign.”
It sounds like someone at Lawson Mobile Home Supply has a hidden talent they need to start sharing with the world. Perhaps they should move beyond sign creation and consider a career in comedy. We’re sure they’d find success with classic jokes like this one.
Back to the Original Players
By this time, the owners and employees of Bridge Kaldro and Super Shoes were stunned to see how far their little war had spread. The Super Shoes crew shared their shock with the sign you can see in the photo below.
“Boy,” they said, “that escalated quickly.” Considering how crazy things had gotten, this sign was an understatement! Still, the Sign War hadn’t even reached its zenith. There was more to come, including the jump to Canada and the never-ending addition of new towns to the fray.
An Evolving Game
The Sign War got so big that people even started making t-shirts. As you can see in the picture below, the shirts commemorated the town in which the Sign War officially began – Christiansburg. Locals were proud that something had put them on the global stage.
Indeed, the small businesses and local residents of Christiansburg were having so much fun that the entire world began to notice. Someone set up a Facebook group dedicated to tracking all the signs, but locals weren’t the only ones to frequent the group.
Who Started the Sign War?
As mentioned, Christiansburg music store Bridge Kaldro initiated the sign war, so credit generally goes to the owner, Ed Bridge. Of course, being a humble man, Bridge is quick to point out that it was actually the idea of one of his employees.
Speaking to WSLS 10 News in 2021, the shop owner and music lover said, “I’m just so humbled because this is bigger than my little music store.” At that time, the war had already spread through Canada and beyond.
How Sign Wars Help the Community
In addition to all the benefits we’ve mentioned previously, sign wars can give a town global attention. People come from neighboring cities, and sometimes even other countries, to see the battle play out in real life.
People enjoy sign-spotting, and it’s always fun to be the first to add a picture of a new sign to social media. In Bridge’s words, “If we can put this whole area a little bit more on the map for people coming to visit, why not?”
A Fun Way to Advertise
The modern world is so saturated with advertising that many of us either feel overwhelmed by it or simply tune it out. The Sign War offered a way for businesses to ditch boring and intrusive advertising methods in favor of having a little fun.
The signs act as a reminder that behind every business is a person we can relate to – someone with a decent sense of humor. The Christiansburg Sign War was a chance for local business owners to share a bit of their personality, and as the owner of the Kabuki restaurant explained to Bored Panda, it was an “amazing free advertisement for us all.”
Open to Everyone
As mentioned earlier, no one is ever excluded from a local Sign War. In the picture below, you can see a rather cute entry from the Meadowbrook Public Library.
Just when you think this thing can’t get any better, someone ups the ante! In this case, local businesses harnessed the Sign War as a way to help charities and non-profit organizations. The Sign War truly is an example of humanity at its best.
Getting Through the Pandemic
The Sign War raged all through the pandemic, helping small towns like Christiansburg maintain a sense of connection, even at the height of lockdowns and strict social distancing rules.
Bored Panda quoted one of the business owners as saying that the signs were a way for businesses to demonstrate that “we are really all in this together.” The business owner, Jonathan Friend, went on to say that “it’s been really uplifting to see all the businesses support each other.”
We couldn’t agree more with the aptly named Mr. Friend. The Great Sign War will go down in history as one of the friendliest battles the world has ever seen. If only all news could be this good, right?
It started as a simple way for the employees at two stores to have a bit of fun. However, the Christiansburg Sign War evolved into a brilliant advertising method, a fun game for locals, and a beacon of hope during the darkest days of the pandemic.