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People person finds his niche in small town

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You can learn a lot about Ryan Sjoblad’s personality just by reading his Facebook posts for his Pequot Lakes restaurant, the Hungry Loon Cafe.

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Take last Friday’s entry: “You can tune a piano, but you can’t tuna fish ... except at the Loon. It’s another Fish Friday here, with our tasty Tuna Croissant or Tuna Melt for our specials today. Or if don’t feel like doing the Lent thing, you can always go for the Roast Beef Melt. Can’t go wrong with that one, either. ;-)”

Ryan is a people person, and he surrounds himself with people, whether it be at work or as a coach for his sons’ athletic teams.

Ryan was born in Idaho, where his parents, Dave and Barb Sjoblad of Pequot Lakes, were student teachers. When Ryan was just 1, the Sjoblads returned to Minnesota, moving to Pequot Lakes, where Ryan attended school and graduated from Pequot Lakes High School. He was an active student, involved in football, basketball and track, Knowledge Bowl, National Honor Society and band.

After graduating, Ryan attended St. John’s University in Collegeville, graduating with a major in psychology and a minor in communications. He took his degrees and moved to the Twin Cities, where he was a communications specialist for what then was Control Data.

Ryan then was the public relations manager for Fair Isaac Corp.’s public website.

“In that job I became an expert on credit scores,” he said, noting he’s quoted in four books, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Time magazine.

But Ryan soon longed once again for small-town living.

“I was getting real tired of living in the Cities and driving downtown every day and paying $250 a month to park,” he said.

Ryan and his wife, Amy, decided that when their oldest son was entering kindergarten that they wanted their children to grow up in the lakes area rather than the Cities. So eight years ago, Ryan, Amy and their two sons, Zach, now 13, and Carter, now 10, moved north. They live in Nisswa, not far from where Ryan grew up. Amy is branch manager at Mid-Minnesota Federal Credit Union in Pequot Lakes.

Ryan worked various jobs in sales and marketing before deciding he wanted to do something else.

“I was looking to get into something where I wasn’t sitting at a desk all day,” he said, noting he was thinking along the lines of owning a men’s retail store.

That’s when he learned that the Tiki Room restaurant in the Jack Pine Center was for sale.

Ryan had worked at several area restaurants while growing up, including Norway Ridge, Bar Harbor and the Quarterdeck.

“So I had restaurant experience and I knew it was a lot of work,” he said. “I like cooking and I like talking to people and it seemed to work. It seemed like a good fit.”

That was nearly a year ago; Ryan opened the Hungry Loon Cafe on May 1, 2012.

“It’s what I expected. I like it a lot,” he said. “When people are in here, everybody seems to love it.”

With his background in marketing, Ryan turned to social media and the Internet to market the Hungry Loon. Once a week someone will tell him they found the restaurant online.

He looks forward to business picking up again this summer.

“Last July I think I had one day off so I’m hoping to get two days off this July,” Ryan said with a smile.

Summer plans at the Hungry Loon include offering more organic foods, local produce and a raw vegetable juice bar. It goes with the health and reuse/recycle themes of businesses in the Jack Pine Center, which include a health food store, Seeds of Sommer, and two used clothing stores, Worth Repeating Consignments and Jenny’s Little Monkeys children’s shop.

When he’s not at the restaurant, Ryan is coaching his sons’ youth athletic teams, which include basketball, football and baseball teams.

“I have a hard time just sitting down and keeping my mouth shut,” he said with a smile, so he chooses to coach the kids.

Ryan has no regrets after moving back home.

“I’m a real people person so I love to walk in a store and say hi to five people I know,” he said. “People I graduated with are my kids’ teachers. You know who the good people are, and people are generally there for each other. In the Cities, you’re more anonymous.”

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