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A new spin on tradition: Villa Tronco and Carolina Pong

Tripp Roche, fifth-generation of Villa Tronco, creates Carolina Pong to foster a local ping pong community while training for the US National Table Tennis Championship.

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Tripp Roche is the founder of the new Carolina Pong table tennis club. | Photo by COLAtoday

Tripp Roche could be at the beach, but instead, he’s in the unairconditioned second floor of Columbia’s oldest restaurant, training for the US National Table Tennis Championships and getting his newly founded Carolina Pong club off the ground.

Roche graduated from Chapin High School last week and is the fifth generation of his family involved in Villa Tronco, with plans to one day take over the family business. He’s set to start at Midlands Tech this fall, with plans to transfer to USC to study Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management, but first, he plans to build a ping pong community.

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It’s not uncommon for diners to come upstairs and play ping pong after their meal. | Photo by COLAtoday

“My grandfather has taken up close to a thousand customers, asking if they play ping pong and inviting them for nightly games,” Roche shared with pride.

Tripp’s been around the family business since he learned to walk, which includes playing on the old donated ping pong table upstairs. The building used to be the Columbia Fire Department, Engine No. 2, with the fire pole still standing. That old donated ping pong table now sits to the side, replaced by a shiny new table with a “tournament-approved bounce.”

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Carolina Pongs installations help bring table tennis to the public. | Photo by Carolina Pong

“Carolina Pong isn’t just about playing ping pong; it’s about building a community,” Roche said.

At the First Thursday event in June on Main Street, Carolina Pong made its public debut by setting up four new tables on Boyd Plaza in front of the museum. The activation was a hit. From kids learning to play to some of the club’s aces rallying for spectators, ping pong brought a new level of excitement to the monthly gathering.

“Moving downtown is the end goal, and expanding Carolina Pong to other cities in the state is a dream we hope to achieve,” Roche envisions.

If you’re looking to learn and join the Carolina Pong club, all ages and skill levels are welcome. The club meets every Tuesday at St. Andrews Park gym from 6-8:30 p.m., with plans to expand.

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