Battle of the businesses

Behind the quiet atmosphere of Meadville’s local businesses is a raging war. A Nerf war, to be exact. Started by Cory Rogers, business owner of The Niche, Cup N Spoon owner Michelle Diedricks was quick to follow suit, and now many of the downtown shops have become involved in the escapade.

“It was Cory and myself that started it,” Diedricks said. “Then we included Megan from the Salty Spa. And then, we added Cross Home Care. Kristen’s Cookies next. And it wasn’t like we added, it was more of a, ‘who should we ambush next?’ and, ‘who do we think would enjoy this?’”

There are specific rules to maintain on the battlefield, though. As fun as it is, business owners also take certain precautions in order to ensure the safety of customers. 

“No customers can be in any of the stores when it takes place just because some people might not be comfortable, and we don’t want anyone to take a stray Nerf dart to the face,” Rogers said.

Despite the careful rules to take into consideration, ambushes happen frequently — sometimes several times a week. According to Diedricks, raids are random. Sometimes they are planned, and other times it is spontaneous for the owners to team up — most often against Cross Home Care.

In fact, Cup N Spoon and The Niche often work together. Although they started as — according to Rogers — “mortal enemies,” due to the proximity of their businesses, they began working together.

“It’s a lot easier to pool our resources,” Rogers said. “Strength in numbers. And I always joke about it just being me here — I know many people in town, and I get a heads up when people plan to raid us. I joke that I have the intelligence network and they have the man-power and fire-power.”

Rogers detailed a time when he had to stand his ground. Cross Home Care arrived to raid Cup N Spoon, but because there were customers in the store, they chose him as the “easy target because I’m the little guy.” 

Instead, Rogers went “Rambo-mode” and kept having Nerf guns to fall back to. It was him against six or seven, and he was ready. After standing his ground, he stood victorious against Cross Home Care.

Diedricks had some stories of her own.

“My favorite story is when we ambushed Robin,” Diedricks said. “That’s Cory’s mom next door. And she is one of those women who you show up with your little Nerf Guns and is like, ‘oh my God I’m not ready’ and she just gets really excited about it. We came in the back door and scared her to death.”

Both stores have a large stash of ammo. At the front desk alone, Rogers has 75 bullets and Nerf guns that can hold up to 35 rounds. Cup N Spoon has an even larger arsenal. Both have smaller guns made to hold one bullet that pack a punch, too.

Sometimes, the battles do not turn in either founding business’s favor, though. 

“Just the other day, we went down to Chateau Christine’s,” Diedricks said. “She wasn’t prepared, so we came walking back and Travis at Harmony Rentals ambushed us. And another time, Cross Home Care ambushed (us) right here in front (of Cup N Spoon). And this whole room was full of ammo. There was just ammo everywhere. But it’s just really fun and gets everyone excited.”

Unlike most wars, the local businesses are fighting for a common cause.

“It brings the community together,” Diedricks said. “It’s also a way for us to cross-promote different businesses. It’s a good way to gather a bigger following and make work fun.”

However, it is not just the local business owners and employees getting involved. The customers are able to join in, too.

“Customers come in asking to be a part of it,” Rogers said. “They’re welcome to be if they like to. If they show up, we can plan something and find someone to raid. It’s a good time.”