Starting a new family business

  • Dogs at Hounds Town USA

    Dogs at Hounds Town USA

  • Buona Beef Skokie. The chain has put the word out they are hiring.

    Buona Beef Skokie. The chain has put the word out they are hiring.

Updated 3/22/2021 4:43 PM

In middle school Karen Pauly would bring home rescue dogs, her father, Jim, remembers. She just always had a passion for dogs.

Despite her family's 102-year history in the dental profession -- Jim followed his father and grandfather into the family business -- Karen never had a passion for dentistry.


So when Jim retired a couple of years ago and closed his practice on the west side of Aurora, he encouraged his longtime dental assistant and office manager to follow her passion.

This summer Karen and Jim Pauly plan to open the first Hounds Town USA doggy day care franchise in Illinois, in a former McDonald's right across the street from Jim's old dental practice.

"It was a little disappointing when my dad realized I wasn't going to go back to school to become a dentist," Karen says, "but he also was understanding that that was not my passion."

So Karen started looking for a franchiser to work with, finding a fit with Hounds Town USA, which has helped with so much of the process already.

"She and the founder of Hounds Town USA (Mike Gould) hit it off really well on a lot of their philosophies about dogs and training and behavior. It just seemed like a match," Jim says.

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Despite looking from Rt. 47 east to Rt. 59, north to St. Charles and south to Oswego, they settled on familiar territory.

"I figured it would be a good opportunity to get something on the west side and also reopen some of the businesses, some of the buildings that have been closed for so long in the West Plaza area," Karen says.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic they found plenty of real estate with favorable lease terms.

"There's a lot of commercial real estate out there that needs some help, so hopefully we can keep on going for a while," Jim says.

They found a willing partner in the city of Aurora.

"We've heard from a lot of the other franchisers that the permitting process is very difficult, but I think Aurora is so eager to get businesses in these spaces that have been vacant for so long that they're kind of open to just about anything," Karen says, "and I think once we brought it to them, explaining that there is a lack of doggy day cares in this area, they realized that yeah, there really aren't any over here, so that will be a good thing."

Jim, who has found himself a little bored at times in retirement, will help with the books and consult on business questions, drawing on his decades of experience running his practice. That will allow him to be involved while still leaving time for travel and golf. Karen will focus on taking care of the dogs.


The family name has opened a lot of doors all over Aurora for her. In taking bids for the construction work that was expected to begin in March, many of the business owners have known her father for years.

"It's funny, even going to open a banking account or just anything that we've gone to do, immediately everyone recognizes the name," she says.

Meanwhile, Karen continues to work in the Glen Ellyn dental practice she joined when her father retired. When her new business is ready to open, hopefully in late summer, she will go part time at that dental practice, working two days a week. Her employer, she says, has been very understanding.

Help wanted

Buona Beef wants to get the word out: It is hiring.

The Chicago-area restaurant chain owned by the Buonavolanto family is looking to add about 500 employees. About 200 of them will be added at new stores in Countryside, slated to open around June 1, and Lakemoor, which has a Sept. 1 target date. Recently opened stores in Skokie and Mt. Prospect also will see their employee rosters beefed up, so to speak.

But Buona Beef also wants to hire as restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic begin to lift and guests can begin eating in restaurants again in large numbers.

"We're choosing to invest in our people in order to separate ourselves as an industry leader with guest experience, safety and sanitation as we continue to get through this pandemic," said third-generation owner and company director of people Joe Buonavolanto III.

And Buona Beef is investing in its people, offering up to $16 depending on the experience of the new employee.

"We've notoriously paid above minimum wage," Buonavolanto said.

That's a lot of giardiniera.

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