This business profile ran as part of Motif’s Black History Month issue, centering the experiences of Black business owners.
Troop in PVD is part bar, part music venue, part gallery, mostly restaurant and part just a place to hang out.
Troop is owned by a team of five from a mixture of backgrounds and cultures. Creative Culinary Director Jason Timothy (“JT”) took a few minutes to talk with us about Troop’s past, present and future, about being a Black business owner and about guiding a venue through a pandemic.
We asked about the role race has played in JT’s career so far. “That’s hard to answer because I don’t really have anything to compare it to. I certainly took a back seat along the way in some circumstances because of skin color,” JT says, “But then I just worked harder. Having Black owned businesses is important. The support in this community is tremendous. But the work’s not done yet. I’m glad to be someone younger food professionals can look at and say, ‘I can do that too.’”
“At Troop really the team is what matters. The team is everything, and we’ve survived only because that team has worked well together,” says JT. That team includes JT, OGs Leigh Vincola and Sean Larkin, plus Chris Simonelli and Amar Kapadia. Having five people who were really engaged and had complementary specialties was crucial for Troop getting through (or still getting through) COVID, according to JT. “When we had to figure out how to get meals out in boxes for the pandemic, we had logistics, planning meals that would travel well, financing, online marketing – a bunch of factors, and someone with expertise in each part, or we couldn’t have done it.”
JT was first inspired by a high school foods instructor in his Connecticut hometown of New Haven, which led to Johnson & Wales, and then to honing his skills at a variety of local culinary hotspots, including the now-retired Louis Fuller and a six-month stint filling in at the renowned Kitchen. His catering company, Laughing Gorilla, had been serving at events and pop-ups for years before the group decided to take over the current venue. “Laughing Gorilla got its name from my college nick-name, and because I’m known for being pretty jovial,” JT says. Then Troop is the term for when a bunch of gorillas get together.
When Troop first opened, the menu for any given night wasn’t released until after you arrived – and there were usually only a couple of choices, but you always knew they’d be tasty and they’d respond to what was freshest at the market that day.
Since then, Troop has grown a reliable menu with staples like chicken nuggs, fries and street noodles, but that spirit of creative adventure remains as well. JT works on menu development with chef Chad Hart, and “We love to change up the menu. Good cuisine should challenge people’s expectations. We hope it even inspires people. Combinations they hadn’t considered can open minds to thinking outside the box about all sorts of things. If you’re not challenging your customers, you’re not succeeding.”
The ambiance and entertainment also share Troop’s goal of making customers “comfortably uncomfortable.” Pretty much every corner of the space has some kind of artwork, from the original interior design by Kyla Coburn, which included barstools with backs made out of skateboards, to giant murals like one recently created by local artist Michael Savant.
Whether it’s art, food, music or a stimulating environment you’re looking for, Troop is dedicated to helping you relax while stretching your perceptions.
Troop PVD, 60 Valley St, PVD, trooppvd.com