End of an era: downtown’s rapidly changing storefronts


Ella Mancuso, Feature Editor

On October 8, Louisa’s and Millie’s chocolate shop in downtown Downers Grove, ending an eighteen-year staple to downtown’s storefronts. Downtown Downers Grove’s storefronts are rapidly changing, with new stores opening and old ones closing.

Louisa’s and Millie’s first opened in 2004, and after rapid success, moved to its downtown Downers Grove storefront in 2007. Louisa’s and Millie’s made products for various occasions– including baby showers, birthdays, holidays, weddings, anniversaries, and vast life celebrations. The owners show sentiment as the recent closing was a hard decision to make for them, and the community as a whole.

“My husband, Mike, retired in December of 2021. He kept saying to me, we can make more money but we can’t make more time.  It took some convincing but, in the end, I agreed,” Louisa’s and Millie’s owner Kathy Bauer said. “It was a very difficult decision to close & I struggled with making it. Change of any kind is difficult but I think it is necessary to keep growing whatever your age.  The last few months have been some of the hardest in my life but I feel now that it was the right decision for me personally.”

The recent closing partly mimics that of Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery, which was located just across the street from Louisa’s and Millie’s. Busy Bee closed in March of 2021, after the owner, Chuck Kalousek, passed due to COVID-19.

“This has been a completely life-changing experience for our family to see this outpouring of love and support, and our lives will never be the same,” Co-owner Katie Kalousek said in an interview with Shaw Local News Network. “It’s renewed my faith in humanity to know that people who didn’t really know us but knew our bakery were so moved to help.”

After the whole community rallied to keep the bakery’s legacy alive and raised over $100,000 for the Kalousek family, no one stepped up to purchase Ingram’s Busy Bee Bakery and run it, resulting in the business closing permanently.

“Any business, if something goes wrong, especially a family-owned business,” family friend Melisa Mackevicius-Leonard said in an interview with ABC 7 News. “If something goes wrong, it has a waterfall effect where multiple things start happening and they understand the fragility of all that.”

Current small-business owners in town express thoughts of new businesses opening downtown or businesses that opened more recently, as a result of closing businesses leaving empty storefronts. 

“There have been lots of stories [of businesses going into Busy Bee’s old location], but mostly they involve some sort of bar/nightclub/light restaurant,” Happy Dog Barkery owner Beth Staley said. “The PoundCake place [Pound Cake Bakery] is going in [opening in downtown]. Bar Chido is newer and I haven’t gotten over there yet either.  I would like to see more retail open in the downtown area.  It is hard to run a small business and usually a big risk for an owner.”

The Pound Cake Bakery is one of few businesses looking to obtain space in the downtown Downers Grove area.

“We have had many customers from Downers Grove since we opened in Lisle, and we initially looked for space there to open our business. D.G. is a business friendly community, residents are very friendly, and there has been  a lot of growth there. We worked at the D.G. farmer’s market this summer and many customers came to our Lisle location asking if we would consider an outlet or smaller store in DG. We further looked and have been very warmly welcomed thus far,” Pound Cake Bakery Owner Beverly Hudson said. “We will be located at 5228 Main Street and hope to be open before year’s end.”

Although the storefronts of downtown Downers Grove have been changing in recent years, the arrival of new businesses allow the town for new growth and opportunity. In light of classic family businesses closing, and new small businesses opening, Downers Grove proves to support our local businesses no matter what.