Three Verona area businesses have appeared to defy the odds by opening or expanding during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout.

They have done so amid the ever-shifting Dane County reopening plan, Forward Dane. The plan had progressed to allow businesses to operate at 50% capacity two weeks ago, but as COVID-19 cases have continued increasing, the county’s health department last week ordered capacity reduced to 25% and added other restrictions.

Still, as Paoli’s Vert Cafe and Plant Gallery was slated to open in March, owner Sarah Boyd told the Press, deciding to hold it off until July might be what saved the business.

Brown Paws Rescue, founder Becky Brown said her business was able to take up residence in Verona in June, as demand for pet companions increased during stay-at-home orders, she said.

A Paoli restaurant, Molino Taqueria, was able to bestow its small plates and Mexican-American comfort foods on the area in March, according to its Facebook page – even after having to close down for a period of time.

Boyd said she considers herself a “realistic optimist,” and she cites that as one of the reasons for still opening the cafe at 6858 Paoli Road, the former location of Stoughton’s Abel Contemporary Gallery.

The business, once it opens in mid-July, Boyd hopes, will eventually offer healthy and fresh breakfast foods paired with coffees from Coffee Cooperative, a Madison roaster. Boyd said she is just starting with coffee for now, however.

The space will also offer a plant gallery people can view while still practicing physical distancing. It will feature “approachable” house plants along with succulents and more exotic species, and even pieces of art made from plants, Boyd said.

As excited as she is, Boyd said she is nervous about opening as “Paoli is a hopping place” – meaning crowds have tended to contribute to rising COVID-19 cases. Still, Boyd intends to only offer carryout and outdoor seating options to start. She also plans on hiring five employees.

“I had to totally reconfigure how I am going to bring people through the space,” Boyd said, remembering when the pandemic hit Wisconsin in March.

She had just remodeled where the plants were going to go, but she “thankfully” didn’t have any employees on her payroll yet. She also has a fulltime job as a cook, and opened the cafe to encompass her passion for plants and gardening.

For Brown Paws Rescue, the pandemic was a financial opportunity to open its 525 Commerce Pkwy. facility in June. As more people became stuck at home, Brown said, the more time they had to take care of animal companions.

After working in the animal rescue industry for around seven years, Brown said she wanted to go off on her own. She saw a dog who was on a high euthanization list in Greenville, Texas, and adopted her as soon as she could.

The dog, Lily, is the inciting incident for Brown Paws’ founding, Brown said. And so, the foster-based and 100% volunteer-based rescuer began out of Brown’s home in Waunakee in 2016.

Being foster-based means Brown Paws doesn’t need a boarding facility, she said. Dogs and some cats are transported from shelters in the American south to the Verona space.

From there, they go to their foster homes – people who applied for a pet through Brown Paws from around South Central Wisconsin. A woman in Mount Horeb also helps the rescuer with cat foster coordination, Brown said.

Molinos Taqueria, located at 6890 Paoli Road, first geared up for opening in February.

The business specializes in tacos, burritos, quesadillas and even ice cream treats, according to its Facebook page. Its fresh ingredients come from local growers and farms, the page states.

The establishment closed in early March, but promised their customers over Facebook they would be back to serving them soon. They fulfilled that promise, as customers kept up a “tremendous volume” of business.

On May 17, the restaurant thanked its visitors for that in a Facebook post.

“We had to do an additional supply run on Saturday morning and we pretty much sold out of that (the same) Saturday,” the post reads.

Email Emilie Heidemann at or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.