WICKER PARK — Guillermo Arauz Jr. said he initially wanted to be a dentist. But at 19 he started helping his dad, Guillermo Arauz Sr., at the accounting firm started by the elder Arauz and as the relationships with clients grew, so did the work.
"I kept connecting with clients and they kept coming back. Every year, especially at tax time, it's like an extended family reunion," Arauz Jr. said.
Now 37, Arauz Jr. has taken over the business from his father, who retired last year.
"The torch has passed, this is a second-generation business," the father said.
The change in command coincided with a new office, at 1633 N. Western Ave., that Arauz & Co. moved to this past summer.
The new storefront is around the corner from a building at 2339 W. North Ave. that Arauz Sr. moved to in 1992 after establishing his company in 1990.
"In the 1990s, North Avenue was disgusting and unsafe. Drugs were peddled off the street and there was a house of prostitution across the street from our office. I chose this area because it was close to the expressway and downtown and convenient for my clients," Arauz Sr. said.
Both father and son, who have accounting degrees from Northeastern Illinois University, have a dog and when they are working together, both dogs are in the office.
"We are very dog friendly," Arauz Sr. said. (Receptionist Sandra DaVila keeps a lint roller at the front desk for anyone covered in hair after allowing Arauz Sr.'s Pomeranian Nala to sit on their lap).
During a busy night on Monday, Arauz Sr., 60, briefly came back out of retirement to help with clients but said that he is trying to scale back. In addition to his son, there is a second accountant at the firm and an assistant.
"We have a high client retention and work with a lot of small businesses in the area, which is our core business. People are used to the personal, friendly attention," Arauz Sr. said.sold his building at 2339 W. North Ave. last year and was considering moving to Humboldt Park when his friend, banker Rick Martinez, found an office in a new construction building around the corner from Arauz & Co.'s longtime spot.
"I see it as a godsend. Who wants to be too distant from where their clients knew them?" Arauz said. "I do believe God works in mysterious ways. It's surreal. The problem is how hard it is for small businesses to stay in the neighborhoods they have been in for so long."
Arauz & Co.'s distinctive yellow and blue sign still hangs at the previous building just east of North and Western avenues because the new building owner retained it as part of a grandfathered-in permit, Arauz Sr. said.
But even without a sign, Arauz Sr. said people are noticing the office, including new clients who were not aware of the company before, despite being a half block away but on a different street.
"I think Western [Avenue] might have more car traffic than North," Arauz Sr. said.
Guillermo Arauz Jr. with client Lauren Ponce, back for her third year of tax preparation. [DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser]