Rochester Magazine: So, in the early ‘90s, you left your job as a swim coach and decided to start a business. In hindsight, how much do you regret not choosing the video store?
Pat Carroll: None. None. I was that close. It was down to the VHS rentals, a sub sandwich shop, or a popcorn place. I had priced out everything for the video store, but it was too much. It was the one I wanted the most. But I realized I couldn’t afford anything else except the popcorn place. I borrowed money from two college roommates to do this.
RM: And, most importantly, you’re from my hometown. Bay City, Michigan. And Bob Seger is playing on the radio. [We’re at Dunn Bros. North.]
PC: I saw him at the Roller Rink in Bay City in the ‘70s.
RM: Hey! That’s right by the house where I grew up! Did you know Madonna?
PC: No, she was in my sister’s grade, but none of us remember her.
[INSERT 30 MINUTES OF REMINISCING ABOUT BAY CITY HERE.]
RM: How many days a year are you downhill skiing?
PC: Probably 20 or more, mostly with Coffee Mill’s Ski Patrol. My wife [Carol Nash] tells me if I win the lottery, I should buy the hill.
RM: Tell me about your first teaching job. And you were coaching swimming.
PC: I started at Holy Rosary Academy (in Bay City, Mich.) right out of college. I had to be at school by 7 and then I couldn’t leave until 4. Then I ran home, changed my clothes, and drove to Midland. And then I coached either the high school boys or the girls. Then I coached the club team and then I did masters, which ended at 9:45. And then I ran to McDonald’s and got a Big Mac meal and drove home eating a Big Mac and grading papers.
PC: I had a riot. It was a blast. The nuns were a blast. The parents were wonderful and all that, but it got to a point where my mom just said, “How long are you going to do this?” So I focused on coaching swimming. I coached in Midland (Mich.) for 9 years, spent two years coaching Cal State-Los Angeles, then coached seven years here at the Rochester Swim Club. Our two kids, Janna and Tessa, grew up in Rochester. It was great.
RM: You’ve always been outspoken about what Rochester needs to succeed.
PC: One of my big frustrations with downtown is on Monday morning when these people from all over the world would come in and go, “What do you people do in this town?” So I’ve always pushed to turn the Chateau into an aquarium. Turn the Chateau into an Art Center. Instead of closing the Silver Lake pool, let’s turn Silver Lake into a destination so people on the weekends say, “We’re going to go to Silver Lake and you’re going to skateboard and mom and dad are going to play pickleball and you’re going to do this.”
RM: How would your employees describe you as a boss?
PC: Wow. I hope I’m not overbearing.
RM: Are you overbearing?
PC: Yeah, somewhat. I feel the need to be there all the time to orchestrate it. Just to keep things rolling. But we’ve been so fortunate with the help. I think I’ve fired one person in 28 years.
RM: You must have built some real relationships with customers.
PC: If you want to really feel how great the Mayo Clinic is, you interact with customers coming in every day. It’s kind of a Catch-22: I’m glad to see you, but you’re at the Mayo Clinic, so that means something else is going on. But you talk it out, you listen. And I’ll miss that.
RM: I’ve been talking to you for 45 minutes and I’m concerned about what you’re going to do when you retire. You’re going to need something. What’s your plan?
PC: I’ve got all kinds of plans. Actually, I’m doing yoga now. And yesterday was my sixth day of yoga. All older people could do yoga. I’m doing the 10 beginning poses.
RM: You don’t seem like a guy who would’ve pursued yoga on his own.
PC: No, no, my wife did it for quite a while. And so I finally went up and did it. And I can’t believe how much better my skiing has been, my balance has been. I do yoga upstairs at our house. I fall over all the time. My wife will laugh because she’ll hear a “boom, boom, boom.” That’s me falling over. Well, yesterday, there was only one “boom” and that was the very last pose where you put your ankles up, you put your arms behind you, and then the waist like you’re horizontal like this.
RM: Well, that’s a picture I now have in my head.
PC: You should try it.
RM: And I saw they’re selling Carroll’s Corn at Hy-Vee. That’s great.
PC: Yes. We have new packaging. We’re selling a lot of Carroll’s Corn at Hy-Vee. We’re doing what we can to get through this and open up new markets.
RM: You do realize you’re talking about Carroll’s Corn as if you’re still part of it. You did sell it, right?
PC: I know, I know. I had it for so long, it’s going to be tough to let it go. We just have so many great people and great things going on.
RM: You just did it again.
PC: I’ll probably always feel like I’m a part of it.