A protest over mask wearing backfired and turned into an overwhelming show of support for a small business owner in Canfield.

Peaberry's Cafe had posted on social media that they had to close early Monday after two women refused to wear masks, threatened legal action, and joined more women outside to protest. The owner did not want employees to be harassed or possibly threatened.

The owners say customers at the counter around other people, must wear a mask or be served at a table. That's due to a state mask mandate, and to help protect customers and employees.

Owner Chris Pendleton said, "Most people understand we are trying to do our part to keep our team safe and our customers safe. Many of our employees are high school or college students or parents. I am thankful for and humbled by the support in our valley by regular customers, occasional customers, and people who never heard of us. Many of the people who posted on Facebook that they were going to support us have already dropped by to stand along side of us, and behind us as a small business.

Pendleton said, "If you say you have a medical condition we ask customers to sit at a table with their party and we will serve them, you can join us in the patio area, or they can call ahead for curbside service. A lot of people forget their mask and we will welcome them and ask if they happen to have a covering and they usually go to their vehicle and get one."

The two women did not give their names. One told me she was going to start recording and I told that's fine. She said are you questioning me, are you demanding I give you my medical condition"  I told her no I was asking her if she had a mask and if she she had a medical reason not to wear one we will work with her. They were harassing me and being belligerent with me. We never ask for someone's medical condition. They did not give their names and one woman told me that they have an organization and they are targeting small businesses and trying to make us lose customers for making them wear masks."

Customer Victoria Villano said, "I think it's important to wear masks because it's important to protect other people. I think this is an issue that's bigger than ourselves. "

Joel Cobelentz understands there is a small percent of the population that might not be able to wear a mask for medical reasons, but believes most people who claim they can't wear one don't want to wear one. Cobelentz said, "Wearing a mask can be hot and a small inconvenience, but it's something minor and simple. I believe when people find technicalities it's selfish, Your so wound up in yourself that just the thought of doing it, it's an inherent childish selfishness. If your going  to be standing around other people or talking to the restrooms it's smart to wear a mask, but they don't care about smart, they just care about making a scene, and me, me, me."