One of the daytime tenants, Emmet, gets ready to go home for the day after spending time with his pack at Hounds Town in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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Springfield's newest dog day care and boarding facility quietly opened its doors in south Springfield June 8, and is planning a grand opening at the end of the summer.

Business couple Mark and Kelly Harper officially brought the pet day care and boarding franchise Hounds Town USA to Springfield. The new facility, located at 1907 S. Stewart Ave., will host a grand opening sometime between August and September, franchisee Mark Harper said.

Hounds Town Springfield South features six large, indoor climate-controlled play areas for its furry customers, with enough room to entertain up to 120 dogs at a time, Mark Harper said. The facility also has 46 “town homes,” or spacious overnight rooms where at least one dog can be comfortably boarded.

Two dogs are getting along in the common area at Hounds Town in Springfield. The owners say they do temperament tests with the dogs to see how they mesh together. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The Hounds Town difference, Harper said, is that the employees minimally interact with the dogs. Instead, the company aims to let the animals get close to a group of peers and give that group plenty of space and time to play together. The handlers do a temperament test and then put a single dog in a group based on size, age and play level. Those groups stay together throughout the entire day.

“We don't talk to them, we don't touch them, we put them in play rooms,” Harper said. “We manage the groups, we manage the dogs. In dog psychology, that's a big deal to the dog.”

“For dogs, they're in the human's world all the time. This is their chance to be in a dog's world, be back in a pack mentality.”

A doggy day care franchise that specializes in ‘all-day play' and ‘pack environment'

Mark and Kelly Harper, the owners of Hounds Town in Springfield, will host a grand opening at the end of summer 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

New York-based Hounds Town was founded in 2000 by former New York City Police Department canine handler Michael Gould, according to a company press release. The day care and boarding brand has more than 60 locations open in the United States and more than 30 stores projected to open by the end of 2024.

Hounds Town locations specialize in an “all-day play” day care model designed to meet each dog's physical, social and psychological needs through “a natural pack environment,” according to the release. On top of day care and boarding, the franchise also offers spa services.

“I couldn’t be more excited about expanding the brand to the Ozarks, especially with Mark and Kelly (Harper) leading the charge,” Rob Flanagan, Hounds Town CEO, said in the release. “These two are passionate about pets and their community, which perfectly aligns with our core values.”

The cost of opening a Hounds Town location starts at $457,000, according to the company website. Mark Harper declined to disclose the franchise fee, but said it is a percentage of sales. Hounds Town locations have an average profit of just more than $905,000 with an operating income of about $438,000. The Harpers signed a franchising agreement in March 2023.

Couple purchased property to house Hounds Town Springfield South

Hounds Town is located at 1907 South Stewart Street in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The Harpers purchased the building that houses Hounds Town, tucked behind the intersection of Glenstone Avenue and East Sunshine Street. The business duo closed on that purchase in November 2023 and began renovations. The main space used for the day care and boarding facility consists of about 6,200 square feet, Harper said, with a separate 1,600-square-foot office and storage space.

“This whole building was completely redone on the inside,” Harper said, adding that before the purchase, the building was unoccupied and consisted of a warehouse and some office space.

Mark Harper declined to disclose the total financial investment for the Hounds Town location, the cost of purchasing the building, or the cost of renovations.

The property that houses Hounds Town includes the Earnhardt Building's South Wing and is owned by the Harper Business Group, Inc., according to Greene County Assessor's Office records. The more than 14,000-square-foot building had an appraised value of $611,000.

Hounds Town South Springfield will employ about 8 to 12 people, and the company has already made most of its hires, Mark Harper said. When the positions were listed online, more than 500 people applied.

The Springfield Hounds Town location is open Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to the company website. Day care costs $35 per day ($30 on Saturday), with reductions in price when you buy packages.

For the boarding, a townhome cost $49 per night, with a luxury suit and a double suite coming in at $59 and $69, respectively. Hounds Town South Springfield also offers baths, nail trims and teeth brushings.

Roots in the Ozarks, the need for a career change pushed couple to open franchise

Mark Harper, owner of Hounds Town in Springfield, says socialization can be very important for dogs. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Mark Harper grew up in the Ozarks, graduating from Neosho High School before going to college at Southwest Baptist University and Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The 59-year-old had a career in the manufacturing industry for more than three decades, spending the bulk of his time at Monett-based WinTech and Springfield-based Positronic. While the trained engineer enjoyed his career in manufacturing, he said he needed a change.

“Honestly, I was kind of burned out by... the whole corporate-politics thing,” Mark Harper said. “So, I was looking for that second career, I was looking for something really different.”

Kelly Harper is a middle school math teacher with a career that has spanned the Ozarks region, including stints at Monett and Billings, where she still teaches. She has spent 29 years as an educator and has one more year until she can retire, she said. Mark Harper will manage Hounds Town day-to-day when his wife goes back to school in the fall.

Kelly Harper is a full-time teacher who helps her husband, Mark, run Hounds Town in Springfield. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

“I didn't realize how much teaching — my hours in the classroom — transfer over to” the dog day care business, Kelly Harper said.

The business duo knew they wanted to franchise an existing, successful company and initially found Hounds Town in December 2022. Three months later, the Harpers had signed a franchising agreement.

The Harpers have had dogs in their lives for 20 years, Mark Harper said, and the couple were excited to join the rapidly growing pet industry.

“The pet industry has just exploded since COVID-19,” Mark Harper said.

The two franchisees plan to fully immerse themselves in the Springfield business community, and will join the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce soon, Mark Harper said.

The Harpers dream of more Hounds Town locations around Springfield

A phrase that graces the wall, “We do it for the dogs,” is a sentiment that the Hounds Town owners repeated. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

The couple owns Hounds Town franchising rights for Springfield and the surrounding communities, like Ozark, Republic and Nixa, Harper said. In the long run, the Harpers are aiming to establish more Hounds Town franchises in the Springfield-metro area.

The first store was purposely called “South Springfield” to leave room for other Springfield locations, as well as Hounds Town day care facilities in surrounding towns, Harper said.

The Harpers' business plan includes steps as a far out as a decade, Mark Harper said.

“We've thought about that, the 5- and 10-year already,” Harper said.


Ryan Collins

Ryan Collins is the business and economic development reporter for the Hauxeda. Collins graduated from Glendale High School in 2011 before studying journalism and economics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He previously worked for Bloomberg News. Contact him at (417) 849-2570 or rcollins@hauxeda.com. More by Ryan Collins