Our Neighbors... Bonnie Pasek

If you happened to attend the Community Memorial Hospital Foundation Gala last week, you saw some of Cloquet resident Bonnie Pasek's creative work. Transforming the Cloquet Area Recreation Center is not an easy task, yet she and other volunteers ...

If you happened to attend the Community Memorial Hospital Foundation Gala last week, you saw some of Cloquet resident Bonnie Pasek's creative work. Transforming the Cloquet Area Recreation Center is not an easy task, yet she and other volunteers managed to turn the usual sports arena into an intriguing masquerade setting.

"That work is all fun and games for me," Pasek said. "It's a lot of work, to be sure, but it's light and enjoyable."

Pasek's life seems to be a balance between the lighter side and a deeper, more complex one. She currently owns, manages and provides services at Necessities, a full-service salon for women and men, which specializes in nails - acrylic nails, manicures and pedicures - and skin care - enzyme peels, European facials and acne facial treatment, as well as facial and body waxing, brow and lash tinting and ear piercing. She also offers all kinds of hair care through stylist Heather Few, who provides cuts, updos, color, highlights, perms and conditioning treatments.

Although the services might also seem on the lighter, fun side, owning and running the business is hard work. Pasek credits her wide range of experience in doing it successfully.

She was always interested in the beauty industry. Pasek grew up in Cloquet, attended Catholic schools and graduated in 1970.


"As a kid, I was told I should become a nun ," she laughed. "Instead I left town and went to St. Cloud Beauty College. It's still there today."

After finishing the program, Pasek returned to Cloquet, got married and had a son, Scott, in 1971.

"That put my beauty career on hold," she said.

After realizing the marriage would not work, Pasek decided she needed a change of scenery. So she, her son and a girlfriend moved to Minneapolis in the early '70s.

"It was time to see the big city," she said.

They moved to a home near Lake Harriet in Minneapolis and Pasek found work at an insurance company, where she learned numbers and client services through managing many accounts. One of those accounts, a meat distributing company, liked her so much they offered her a job.

The company processed and shipped various kinds of meat across the country to restaurants and resorts.

"I eventually became a vice president in meat distribution," she said. "I certainly learned a lot about things I never would have dreamed of."


Pasek's focus was in the shipping department, and her work with transportation companies landed her another job, this time at Larson Transfer, which was also based in the Twin Cities.

"It's funny how my jobs led me from one business to another," she said.

At Larson, she eventually moved into shipping prefabricated homes around the country.

She worked there for several years and bought a house in the suburb of Burnsville, Minn. Pasek also remarried and decided to move to California, where much of her husband's family lived.

They moved to Mission Viejo in southern Orange County in 1979.

"When I first moved there, it was nothing but orange groves and I was used to cities and plays and restaurants, she said. "When I left, it was a different story - overgrown with development."

Initially, she struggled to find a job in the area.

"I didn't have a degree and because of it, I couldn't find a good job," she said.


She was finally offered a job with shipping again as a main component - this time, however, it would entail shipping military families around the globe - and she vacillated.

"I didn't really want to be in the business of shipping people," she remembered.

While mulling over the decision, she saw an ad for a bookkeeper at an optical office.

"It was closer to home and I was more comfortable with that idea," she said.

When she went to that interview, the Canadian owner liked that she was also from the north.

"He thought I was honest and hardworking because I was from Minnesota," she laughed. "I guess that was true, although I don't know if that was the reason. He offered me the job right there on the spot."

And Pasek found herself in another industry.

"By the time I left, I was doing all the support work with contact lenses," she said.


In another job-related twist of fate, Pasek found her original calling through a shopping trip with the receptionist at the office.

"She had these incredible nails," Pasek recalled of the receptionist. "She said she needed to get her nails on so we stopped at a nail salon."

Pasek found herself face to face with the beauty industry and took it as a sign.

"Here was this cute shop and the woman who owned it drove a Mercedes," she said. "I thought, 'I want in on this.'"

The woman told her about a local nail care school and about running the business.

That was on a Friday and since it had been so long since St. Cloud Beauty School, Pasek enrolled and started at the school the following Monday evening. She continued to work at the optical shop during the day and in six months, she had completed the program and began her waylaid career, renting space in a salon.

"I just launched into it and I tripled my income in three months," she said.

After that success, Pasek quit her optical job. Her prices then were $75 per artificial nail set and $40 for a fill.


"It was bizarre," she said. "I couldn't believe people would pay for this, but they were fascinated. There weren't very many of us doing it back then."

Pasek enjoyed the work and the client interaction. She and several of her colleagues eventually decided to open their own salon and Pasek tried that out for awhile before the workload became too much. Soon after, she went back to renting space.

"I just didn't have the time for it at that point," she said. "And I didn't want all the responsibility."

Pasek had also completed additional schooling for skin care, becoming an esthetician as well, and she added facial skin care services to her repertoire.

It was around this time that Pasek was introduced to Saddleback Church and met an esthetician who happened to work at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Nigel. She helped Pasek begin working there part-time, doing nails and facials mostly as part of room service.

"We worked on many celebrities who preferred not to come down to the spa for services," she said. "There were so many over my seven years of working there I can hardly remember most of them."

Part of not remembering could stem from the pseudonyms by which she knew them. Pasek was trained to call people by the false names they registered under and refrained from asking personal questions.

"One example - I was up in the penthouse once doing a manicure on this man while his wife and children ran in and out, and as far as I knew his name was Mr. Harrington," she said. "We had such a good time chatting that he eventually told me he played guitar for the Rolling Stones. Mr. Harrington was Ron Wood, who has played with the rock band since the mid-70s.


Pasek also remembers meeting John Travolta, Tyra Banks and members of the band "KISS," among others. She also began helping with event planning, specifically in decor, at the Ritz and for personal clients, doing weddings, birthday parties and other special events.

"I've always had this real creative side," she said.

Her volunteer work, however, for a non-profit called Trauma Intervention Programs, Inc. (TIP) has been some of her most meaningful work.

The group is based on citizens helping citizens through crisis and Pasek became involved after reading a newspaper article about the program.

"We were trained and dispatched through emergency services to accidents, murder scenes, suicides," she said. "We provided emotional support and any kind of help family members would need. It was amazing."

Pasek volunteered in 12-hour shifts, meaning at times she would handle more than one traumatic call per shift.

"I have a strong faith and the ability to help people got me through the tough work of cleaning up bodies before they were identified, planning funerals, sitting in hospital waiting rooms and doing whatever I could to be there for people."

Since moving back, she has been approached to start a TIP chapter in the area.

"I think we have a dire need for it in Minnesota and here in Cloquet," she said. "I think about starting a chapter and wouldn't mind teaching a class about it. The program itself would have to be approved by all emergency departments in the county and would be a big undertaking. I couldn't do it alone."

In 1989, when Pasek's son graduated from high school in California, she was also recently divorced, and decided it was time to own her own salon once again. She and a partner opened Hair Associates in the nearby town of Lake Forest, which was a full-service salon, with Pasek overseeing nail and skin care.

"Running it was a 24-hour-a-day job," she said.

About five years ago, Pasek started entertaining the thought of moving back to Cloquet. She had kept in contact with an old friend, Jim Pasek, and their relationship had been growing stronger.

"My son had finished college at University of California-Berkeley, had taught there and had since moved to Boston to teach," she said. "He's my true claim to fame. It was just time to come home."

She returned three years ago, although she and Jim were married four years ago.

"We got married but I still had to sell my house and take care of my business and all of that took about a year," she said.

After settling back into town, Pasek took a year to decide what to do for work. Then she decided to build a salon, on the first floor of her and Jim's home off Highway 33 and Selmser Avenue.

The salon has been open just over a year and business is good, according to Pasek.

"I love being back here - life is good."

You can see more of Pasek's event-planning handiwork at the Friends of Animals "Beastie Bash" on Nov. 9 at Lost Isle.

"I love animals, especially cats," she said. "That aspect of my volunteer work is for them."

Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: .

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