In “To the Bone,” The Kinks perfectly describe the excitement of buying vinyl records: “in the back of a record rack, there’s an old double pack. 12 inches and black with an old crumpled cover. But every record is stacked.” That same experience is exactly what I feel when walking into a little record shop on the corner of First and S. Water Street in Batavia, Illinois.
Sure, at first glance, Kiss the Sky may just be your normal independent record store, but with closer inspection, it is just as “stacked” as the records The Kinks describe.
Walking into Kiss the Sky, a sudden feeling of warmth wraps around my soul. Everything from the smiling faces of the customers and employees to the vintage vibe of the place really adds to this general feeling. It’s almost as if the history of music and Kiss the Sky itself is giving out warm hugs, saying, “Welcome! Please stay as long as you’d like.”
Steve Warrenfeltz and Mike Messerschmidt, close friends and Kiss the Sky’s founding fathers, walk me through the origins that sparked the idea of this establishment. After getting to know each other more and more in their college years, the idea of building a record store started as a joke, and then became serious as the two got older.
“We would go out, commiserate, talk, and kind of planted some seeds ,” Warrenfeltz stated.
After some hard decisions and some rigorous planning, Kiss the Sky was born.
Kiss the Sky’s record and CD collection is massive beyond belief. Not only are there rows and rows of brand new records, but there are also hundreds of CDs and used records that will keep any music fan browsing for hours on end. Although there are several hip-hop, jazz, and other genres of music on display here, Kiss the Sky’s main attraction is the energy and coolness of good ol’ rock and roll. Messerschmidt specifically deals with the ordering of the records and is responsible for the content the store receives.
“ the broad spectrum of rock, and then we break it down into heavy metal, and then blues , and then jazz,” Messerschmidt describes.
It is great seeing a store like Kiss the Sky contain mostly rock content these days, due to the genre becoming far more decayed in the mainstream music industry. It’s always exciting to see kids from this generation debating over what Pink Floyd or Tom Waits albums are the best—which is exactly what you’ll find at Kiss the Sky.
Aside from the records themselves, Kiss the Sky is also unique because it hosts live music. It adds so much more to the music celebration that already bleeds out of every corner of Kiss the Sky. Warrenfeltz even describes these shows as being “a little bit different than a normal bar gig” bands usually play, due to the fact that this is a store. Having this small dash of live music from time to time is a concept that keeps people coming back several times after their first visit.
On a few occasions when I would visit Kiss the Sky, I would hear great music, thinking that it was just from a streaming service. To my surprise, I then realize the music is coming from an actual live performer. It is such a nice touch that left me, and other customers, feel even more engaged in their browsing and visit in general.
On the topic of live music, Kiss the Sky is donating to The Fox Valley Music Foundation for a special cause. This foundation, as of right now, is funding for a live music arena in downtown Aurora currently known only as “The Venue.” The grand opening of this venue is on June 1, and will include live performances from artists such as Noah Gabriel and The Grateful String Band. Warrenfeltz, a member of the board of The Fox Valley Music Foundation, explains that the money received from these shows will go to a good cause.
“ use the proceeds from what we generate with the live music, and funnel that back into programs for music education,” Warrenfeltz says.
Not only is downtown Aurora getting a new outlet for live music from Kiss the Sky’s donations and Warrenfeltz’s direct cooperation with this foundation, but the funds from these acts will give aspiring music artists more choices for progressing in their musical talent, also.
From the atmosphere, music collection, and general attitude of the community surrounding—the store is nothing short of magical. Founders Messerschmidt and Warrenfeltz have created one of Illinois’ most interesting and attaching attractions, proving single handedly that Kiss the Sky is more than just your typical record store. Not only do they provide one of the best record collections in the state, but they give back to their community with a full, supportive force by using the power of music. In addition, Kiss the Sky is keeping the dying influence of rock music alive by providing mostly rock material. With more musical outlets along the lines of this in the world, this generation’s youth could finally see an interest and resurgence of the art of rock and roll.