The record buyer is a compulsive beast.
There’s always the urge to dig and keep digging until you’ve found that rare gem — perhaps Prince’s “Black Album” or an original pressing of “The Velvet Underground and Nico” with the banana sticker still intact.
Kiss the Sky is not only a paradise for ravenous record collectors, it’s something they might be excited to find; an existing record store in Chicago’s western suburbs. An opportunity to dig.
“We know that people just love going in there and digging,” said Kiss the Sky owner Steve Warrenfeltz. “It’s the hunt.”
Even more than records, you can find a selection of rock T-shirts, incense, cooking spices and a large collection of new, used and bootleg live CDs, which Kiss the Sky has never been short of.
Warrenfeltz and company will be celebrating Record Store Day, a day that celebrates independently owned record stores, on April 18. Kiss the Sky will have a live acoustic metal band (Smash Corp), food, and for those that purchase vinyl in bulk, a free turntable.
“What we’re trying to do there is if anyone has been kind of on the fence about getting back into vinyl, we’re offering a real fun economic way to do it,” said Warrenfeltz.
Record Store Day has been “a nice shot in the arm,” as Warrenfeltz calls it. Last year, it boosted their sales to double of what they would be on a normal Saturday according to the store’s owner.
Warrenfeltz said that he has “absolutely” seen people get more into vinyl over the past few years, saying that vinyl sales have gone up in their store from 3 to 5 percent of business to about 20 percent of total business.
“I think there’s a nostalgia factor going on,” said Warrenfeltz. “I think young kids are discovering their parents vinyl collection and going ‘oh, this is cool,’ and there’s just the old timers that are collectors and they’re still there.”
Of course Kiss the Sky has always had vinyl, going back to 11 years ago when they first opened their doors in Batavia.
“Maybe we didn’t have as much as we do now, but we’ve always had it,” said Warrenfeltz. “We kind of lucked out in that we hung in there, and we kept buying all this new vinyl.”
Rich Sterioti, a Naperville resident who drives out to Kiss the Sky to peruse the vinyl section, said he goes there often because of the selection and the people.
“When vinyl first came out, I couldn’t afford it,” said Sterioti.
Sterioti said that as a newlywed in the ’60s and ’70s, he didn’t have the money for good vinyl, so he’s getting what he can now.
“It’s similar to fishing or hunting,” said Sterioti. “You really never know what you’re going to find.”
Sterioti spoke on about finding new artists at Kiss the Sky by simply digging through the crates of vinyl on the racks and on the floors. He said that he prefers the sound and look of vinyl over CDs or MP3s.
While other local suburban record stores have moved into Chicago, including Record Breakers, formerly of Hoffman Estates, and others are closing, such as Record Revolution in DeKalb, Warrenfeltz said he’s not overly concerned about Kiss the Sky.
“Part of the fun of coming to a store like this, and I’m saying this from both my own point of view sitting on this side of the counter and I haven’t forgot what it’s like to stand on that side of the counter, is the interaction,” said Warrenfeltz. “It’s the social environment that you get at a place like this.
“You come in here and you can talk music with somebody who this is their life,” said Warrenfeltz. “Music is my life. You can hang out here, we can exchange ideas, talk about concerts, talk about the old days or the days coming up.”
Observing the counters at Kiss the Sky, you see what Warrenfeltz means. Old and new customers come up with a level of comfort and familiarity that can’t be found in most stores, let alone most modern music stores. Five minute conversations stretch to 20 minute epic debates on matters in and outside of the realm of music.
Kiss the Sky harkens back to the days where you could go into a record store and have the clerk make a recommendation. Kiss the Sky’s recommendation shelf is stocked full of music you wouldn’t dream of finding in most big box stores, such as the newest Deerhunter and King Khan and the Shrines albums.
“If you go into a Best Buy, you don’t get that,” said Warrenfeltz. “You’re lucky to find a kid that even knows who The Kinks are or who remembers who Dean Martin was.”
Warrenfeltz said he’s thankful the store is in good standing with the community, and thinks the unintentional nostalgia factor helps them out with Geneva shoppers.
“People who come into this town and shop, they’ll come here out of curiosity and we’ll hear... ‘Oh Martha, hey this is just like the store I used to hang out back in the ’60s and ’70s.’, so we got that going for us.
“I think we work real hard at this,” said Warrenfeltz. “It’s our passion, it’s our life. I think we put out good product. It’s a good store. We feel that if music is going to continue to be important in people’s lives, a store like ours will survive.”