Name: Gunnar Soroos
Occupation: Production designer for Mayo Clinic
Where we found him: Mutual friend
How are you handling the quarantine? I did already work from home, so for me it’s not too big of a change. My younger daughter is in college at Winona State … so she’s doing online school. She was loving the college life, so she’s really bummed.
What does a production designer do? Basically, I take the content that the editors have for Mayo Clinic books and put them into a template—I format all the words and find images and, hopefully, make everything easy to digest.
Are you originally from Rochester? No, I moved here in 1997. I was living with my wife and my 1-1/2 year old daughter in Honolulu, Hawaii, and things were tough there as far as making ends meet. Money magazine had just put out the article about Rochester being the greatest city to live in. My wife’s sister had moved up here a year before and sent us the article. We thought, “Things aren’t working so well here, and Rochester sounds like a great place where things are booming.” So we made a decision and it really worked out for us.
Was Honolulu home? Yes, I was born and raised there. My wife spent a majority of her life there. It was tough to leave. We both had a lot of family there, but we made it work. Funny, 20-plus years later, we still consider it home though Rochester is now our second home.
That’s a big move. You can’t throw your stuff in a moving truck. We sold 90% of our belongings and basically mailed up the stuff that felt important, like family photos. We were young enough that we didn’t have very much.
Did you find a job right away? We came up on a Friday, put down the deposits and signed the lease for the first apartment we looked at, and moved in on Monday. It was pretty easy—plop a box here and we’re done! The next day, I went to Express Temps, put my name in and for the first three weeks we lived here, I did “light industrial” work in a factory on Seventh Street. The company made the cheese packets for Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese mix. I was pouring these huge vats of the powder stuff. There were no masks or gloves. Working 5 a.m. to 7 at night, just backbreaking work. I was breathing in all this cheese power and you come home and it’s in your nose and in your hair. But that’s what needed to be done. I have great empathy for people who can work that, especially for a long time.
Then you found another job? I was riding my bike to work, and I’d pass by a bike shop every day. I stopped in, put in an application, and they called back and said, “I’d like to hire you.” I’d worked at a bike shop in Honolulu.
What was it like growing up in Hawaii? As a small kid, it was wonderful—it was beaches and parks and playing in the water all the time. But around middle school and high school in Hawaii, there’s this kind of discrimination—a lot of animosity toward the Caucasian students. So being Caucasian, I kind of got picked on by the locals and by other cultures. It was a great learning experience, in that respect. It kind of opens your eyes and gives you a real empathy for others who are getting picked on.
Do you get back? We do, but not as often as we’d like. I think we’ve been averaging every 4-5 years. My parents live there half time. My mom’s from Thailand, so they live half the year in Thailand and come to Hawaii for the other half of the year.
How did you handle your first Minnesota winter? The temperature was a shock. That very first snow we experienced was fun and exciting, but it quickly lost its fun and excitement! … The lack of sun in the winter still really affects us. It does help to be active.
Do you still bike? I do. I just went for a bike ride today. I used to do it competitively. I also like to go out and just have fun. Sometimes that doesn’t always mix well. You have to be more serious to be competitive.
What kind of competitive racing did you do? In Hawaii, I would race mountain bikes and road bikes. Actually, I’d race road bikes to stay in shape for mountain biking!
How long are those races? About 25-30 miles for mountain bikes, and between 60-100 miles for road bikes, depending on the course. I’ve done a couple of races here, too. Gravel races seem to be the big thing here—about 50 miles on gravel roads.
Biggest adventure? Having and raising kids. There’s constantly stuff going on and things to watch out for. Even now with our more adult-ish kids, there’s parenting that never goes away. That’s probably the biggest adventure. Trying to get them out the door … but when they’re out, thinking maybe don’t go out so far.
You have two daughters? Yes. My older daughter is married to a good guy and is a para for the school system, and my younger daughter is in college.
How was the empty nest (before social isolation)? I think we did pretty well with it. There were times we’d miss having the kids around, but with technology and FaceTime and texting and calling, we’re all still connected. And my wife and I like each other. We enjoy each other’s company and like to spend time together, so it’s not like we’re clamoring to get out of this house. The stay at home order is not that big of a deal for us.
Anything you’d like to add? I’m a big Seinfeld fan, so I’d just like to say: These pretzels are making me thirsty.