Eleven 26 will bring Speakeasy vibes, live music to the former Busy Bee Spot

DOWNERS GROVE, IL — “What if? Why not?” Suzanne Positano can’t forget her late brother Steve Jessen’s mantra. For one thing, his three daughters tattooed the phrase after Steve died of brain cancer in 2015. Beyond that, the words summed up Steve’s irrepressible attitude to living in the moment, which Positano says is what inspired her to present live music, small plates and craft cocktails to Downers Grove with Eleven 26.

The location, which she told Patch will have “speakeasy vibes,” will occupy the former Busy Bee Bakery location at 5126 Main Street. Eleven 26 gets its name from Steve’s birthday, which was November 26th.

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Positano said she searched for several years before the Busy Bee location won her heart. The building’s number, 5126, happened to match Steve’s date of birth with her favorite number, five.

“I know he’s here,” Positano told Patch about Steve, whom she described as “the guy you’d call at 3 a.m. to fix a tire … such a giving, loving human being.”

She said Steve “loves music” and inspires those around him to “have no fear”.

Positano recalled a time when she and Steve went abseiling and she found herself frozen in terror.

She remembers him saying, “Life is so short? Why are you afraid.”

Those words echoed in Positano’s ears for years as she continued her work in the entertainment industry. She had started as a model and actress in her teenage years and then started working with locations and productions. She told Patch that her long list of past clients includes “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol” and Kevin Costner, to name a few.

Positano was bitten by the entertainment and hospitality bug when her parents owned the Old Elm Café in Elmhurst. She recalls that the restaurant was close to the York Theatre, another bit of synchronicity for her, as Eleven 26 would be within walking distance of the Tivoli Theatre.

With decades in the industry, along with connections through Steve and her other brother, Michael, who is also a musician, Positano is poised to make Eleven 26 a favorite entertainment spot in the area.

Eleven 26 will have two bars, one in the front and one in the back room, which guests will access through a secret door, she said. The back room will feature the venue’s stage, where Positano plans to host live music six nights a week.

The schedule will include live bands, cabaret entertainment, open mic nights, singer-songwriter performances and other performances by local and national artists.

Visitors will be able to fortify themselves with tapas, small plates and inventive craft cocktails.

Positano said he even hopes to include a treat inspired by late Busy Bee Bakery owner Chuck Kalusek, who died of the coronavirus in 2021. The beloved bakery closed its doors shortly after and the space has been vacant ever since.

“The history of the bakery is sad,” Positano said, “But the history of it is amazing… how much [people] I liked Busy Bee.”

Positano hopes Eleven 26 can also make a lasting difference in the Downers Grove community.

“We have a lot of great ideas that we want to do in our community through Eleven 26 to help,” she said.

They are already planning a VIP club, weekly gospel brunches and a festival in the summer to help raise funds to fight brain cancer.

“Music brings people together, so I want to be able to create that at Downers and make it something special and create what I want with my own crew and make it a family,” Positano told Patch.

Eleven 26 is aiming for a spring 2024 grand opening with live music, including performances by Positano’s son and her brother Michael. The venue will even feature a replica of Steve’s guitar.

“[Steve] he didn’t want to die,” she said. “He wanted to live, so at least I can live and do something.”

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