The Enjoy Troy Co. made the Fall 2014 cover story in Connections, the magazine of Sage College. The article, featuring Linda Passaretti and Tom Reynolds, was written by Enjoy Troy Co. writer in residence Duncan Crary.
You can read the article below or online by clicking here.
Spend time in Troy and you’ll start to spot it everywhere. A cheerful oval, with a simple statement in happy lowercase letters: enjoy troy.
“Somebody once told me he felt there should be an ellipses at the end, and I said ‘Absolutely not,’” says creator Linda Passaretti, with a mock sternness. “It is a mandate. It’s an order: Enjoy Troy, period.”
Today, the ubiquitous Trojan slogan is sported on T-shirts, emblazoned on windows, and flies high on large vinyl banners. But in spite of its prevalence in Troy, the symbol is not the product of a large PR firm enlisted by city government or chamber of commerce to “brand” the place. It does not owe its popularity to professional marketing. It is, instead, a project that’s about as grassroots as you can get. Even now, in spite of its popularity, few people know where the “enjoy troy.” symbol comes from or who makes the items it appears on.
The result, Passaretti notes, is something that feels authentic and that belongs to the people. “Enjoy Troy is sort of a counter culture response to branding,” she says. “It resonates.”
She calls it a “meme,” which is a term coined by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins to describe “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” And like most memes, this one took off by surprise.
In 2003, Passaretti wanted to host a theme party for her friends in Troy’s Washington Park neighborhood but she had no money for decorations. So she printed sheets of “enjoy troy.” address labels and stuck them on plastic cups and other items around her house. It was a hit.
“People took sheets of these labels and stuck them all over my house. So ‘enjoy troy.’ was all over my house, literally and figuratively,” she says. “Then the idea grew from there.”
After that, she designed a more professional-looking oval decal, which she passed out around town to friends and business owners — some of those can still be found stuck on the draft beer towers at bars, or on utility poles around town. Next, she had shirts and hats made when people started asking for them.
Then something strange started happening. Wooden oval plaques, customized with the “enjoy troy.” symbol and local business logos started to crop up at bars, shops and offices around the city. But Passaretti didn’t know who was making them. Even the people who had them didn’t know where they came from because they arrived mysteriously, either by mail or hand-delivered by a small girl who quickly retreated. The only message accompanying the gift was “Compliments of Poppi Bidodio,” a name no local had ever heard.
“Who is this mysterious elf making ‘enjoy troy.’ plaques?” Passaretti wondered along with others.
As it turns out, the secret mirth maker was a commercial lending officer named Tom Reynolds. Originally from Utica, Reynolds had lived in Troy from 1994 to 1998 then returned for good in 2003 because he “enjoyed the place so much.” He didn’t know Linda when he first spotted the stickers, but he decided he wanted to help spread the meme by making and gifting the plaques.
Finally he met Linda to fess up. “I hope you don’t mind what I’ve been up to,” he told her. She didn’t. But there was still one matter to clear up: who was Poppi Bidodio? That, Reynolds explained, was the name of the imaginary friend of his daughter, the delivery girl.
From then on, Reynolds and Passaretti teamed up as “The Enjoy Troy Company.” But, while the design is officially trademarked and the company’s array of merchandise is available at Artcentric Gallery at 266 River St. and online at enjoytroy.us, the partnership isn’t motivated by money.
“This has always been about making something to bind and build the community,” Passaretti says. “When all these people start to see this community as worthy, that is my payment.”
It’s impossible to know what effect “enjoy troy.” has had on Troy’s rebirth, but perceptions of the city have certainly changed since Passaretti first arrived in 1980 as a freshman at Emma Willard School.
“People were down on Troy when I was a kid,” she said. “Everybody at school would say Troy was the armpit of the world.”
Now the city’s renaissance-in-progress is the talk of the region and was even reported by the New York Daily News in 2013. Young professionals are moving to Troy, attracted to its walkablility, affordability and historic architecture. RPI and Sage students are staying — and alumni are returning — after graduation to join the workforce or establish their own businesses: Jessica Garrity SGS ’09, who earned her master’s degree in School Counseling at the Esteves School of Education opened Collar City Hard Pressed juice and smoothie stand on Broadway in August; MaryJane Hopeck SGS ’91, who earned her master’s degree in Reading, opened MarEle Boutique on River Street in June; and when Greane Tree Technology “graduated” from Russell Sage’s INVEST incubator, founder Annmarie Lanesey was committed to continuing to build her business, now located on Broadway, in downtown Troy.
According to City Economic Development Coordinator Monica Kurzejeski, 35 new businesses opened in Troy in 2013 with similar numbers shaping up for 2014. During the past two years, almost $100 million has been invested in construction within the city borders, from a diverse number of developers. But Passaretti, who works in development and who returned to Troy to purchase a home near Sage in 2000, said the momentum didn’t happen overnight.
“Ten years ago, Troy didn’t have the same offerings if you were really trying to attract someone with bars and boutiques and farmers markets,” she said. “But in terms of the quality of the people who are trying to make the city go, it’s been there all along. Folks like Lynn Kopka [’74], these are people who’ve committed their lives to making the city work in a positive way.”
Duncan Crary is the host of “A Small American City,” a podcast featuring the characters who enliven the city of Troy. Listen at: ASmallAmericanCity.com