The community has shown their support for this beloved business owner by donating over 175K to a fundraiser for Chuck Kalousek, owner and baker at Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery.
Chuck Kalousek has owned the Busy Bee Bakery in Downers Grove for over 24 years. In those 24 years, the village has seen a lot of changes, and many businesses lining the bustling Main Street have come and gone. But some have stayed for decades. One of those that has lasted is the Busy Bee, which has stayed a community favorite through the years.
The bakery has been closed since Kalousek became ill with Covid in March. Known for its specialties like the atomic cake, strudel, and paczkis, the bakery was forced to close without Kalousek to bake them. The 55-year-old owner is battling for his life at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
The bakery's website has been changed by the Kalousek family to a letter explaining the reason for the closing with a link to the family's GoFundMe page. In the letter, Kalousek's wife, Katie, describes how, at the same time she lost her mother to Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, her husband was diagnosed with Covid.
Kalousek was sick for 16 days before doctors decided to put him on a ventilator. According to the latest update (April 25th) on his GoFundMe page, Kalousek is currently on an ECMO (a machine that assists with heart and lung functions.) He is also being evaluated for a possible lung transplant. Although it still may be possible to salvage his lungs.
Currently, the family's fundraiser has received $177,804 towards their goal of $200,000. According to the most recent update, "Chuck is struggling and in a weak condition. They are continually trying to wean him off of sedation and the vent (out of his induced coma). There isn’t any progress, but not moving too far backward either."
The GoFundMe page is flooded with comments from well-wishers from the community with many stating how they have been customers for decades.
Kathy Bauer, the owner of Louisa and Millie's Chocolates, located across the street from the Busy Bee, told the Daily Herald, "In the run-up to Easter when they were closed, people were coming in and obviously very distressed about not getting their lamb cakes. It made me think about how important a tradition it is in Downers Grove. They've really woven themselves into the fabric of the community."
If haven't been in the bakery yourself, you can look to Yelp for comments from happy customers that have been frequenting the place for years. Stefanie A. of Chicago wrote, "If you're looking for the best bakery in the western suburbs, look no further. Actually hurry and get to busy bee in downtown downers NOW. This place is truly a gem, and I love supporting a local family owned bakery..." Another review, this one from Wendy B. of Elmhurst, "If you are looking for a good old fashioned bakery this is your place! Have been going here for years!"
Downers Grove has seen a lot of changes since the Busy Bee Bakery first opened its doors 24 years ago, but the bakery has weathered them all. Main Street in Downers Grove has always been a bustling area, with the train station, and express routes that can get you to Chicago in around half an hour.
But the last decade or so has seen an explosion of growth. The development of the Burlington Station Luxury Residences and the new parking garage helped to create tremendous growth and many new restaurants and retail shops have come to the area. But some old favorites have stayed, like the iconic Tivoli Theatre, Anderson's Bookshop, and the Busy Bee Bakery.
The Kalousek family expressed their gratitude in their letter posted on the bakery website, "Thank you for any prayer that you may be able to provide to us during our time of need. We are both looking forward to the day that we may be able to flip our OPEN sign back on and get back to serving our community."
For now, the store remains closed as Chuck Kalousek battles for his life against a disease that has taken over 580,000 Americans.
If you would like to donate or send a message of support to the family, you can go to their GoFundMe page here.