Kryptonite owner Chris Wachowiak starts another career

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118417440828339.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Kryptonite owner Chris Wachowiak outside Kryptonite, 308 W. State St., in the downtown River District.‘);

Rockford once again suffers from the brain-drain syndrome­—Kryptonite owner Chris Wachowiak left Rockford July 9 for a new job as director of sales for Gemini Sun, a New Age or “world music” label. The distribution and recording company is owned by flautist Nicholas Gunn and is in Malibu, Calif.

Wachowiak visited The Rock River Times to reflect on his work in Rockford and the work ahead just before he left town.

“See you later; it’s not good-bye,” said Wachowiak.

Katrina Finnan will manage Kryptonite in Wachowiak’s absence, with check-ins by phone. Wachowiak had high praise for Finnan, who has managed the lounge and music club for the last two months. “She’s already met and even surpassed the goals I set for her,” he said.

As confident as he is in Finnan, Wachowiak is just as excited about his new career. “We just signed up Nightbyrd from L.A., and they’re smooth jazz,” Wachowiak said . “We have two artists right now on the Billboard world-music charts, David Arkenstone, who’s been around for 20 years coming in at No. 5, and 2002, who’s similar to Enya, coming in at No. 13. It’s a big deal in the industry.”

Nicholas Gunn’s most recent personal performance was a live showcase with Arkenstone, Johannes Linstead, a flamenco guitar player who was ranked as Canada’s No. 1 guitar player, and Loren Gold who played keyboards for American Idol Taylor Hicks. This concert will be a live DVD to be released mid-August. Wachowiak is trying to get PBS to pick it up.

Wachowiak got to know Gunn when Gunn moved here in 2002 to work with Joel Geist, who did the first Pimps music video, “Rocket Science.” They’re old high school buddies, and Gunn was regrouping from a divorce in Nashville, Tenn.

“My mom calls Nick ‘her other son’,” Wachowiak said. “We’ve become best friends. In that year and four months that he lived here; people did confuse us as brothers. Even in Malibu, people three different times asked us if we were brothers.

“Nick moved to L.A. two years ago for the progress of the label. The music industry’s capital is L.A. Back in December, we were talking, as we do every other day, and he said his wife and business partner, Heather, said, ‘We have a question for you.’ He said he knew it would be hard for me to answer because of the club and my ties to Rockford.

“Nick told me, ‘There’s nobody we trust more, and who has his back, and the ability to be thrown in over his head and come out on top.’ At the time, he didn’t have the specific job title. But this year, their sales are going to double, and they’ll have more artists. He just wanted me on his team.

“I went and talked to one of my mentors, Mark Banz, who owns Peak Fitness, and my attorney and one of my best friends, John Gilbert. They both advised to take what would be the best growth opportunity for Chris Wachowiak.

“I’ve accomplished a lot here. I’m deeply rooted. But opportunities only come about if acted upon. The greater struggle usually equals the greater reward.

“I feel I’ve accomplished a successful night/music club in downtown Rockford. I’ve been part of changing a few laws, one being the sidewalk café laws and the other being the OntheWaterfront open container law.

“Two other laws I want are an open container law for downtown all the time and a 4 a.m. liquor license for downtown, like New Orleans and Chicago, respectively. Even Milwaukee has an open container law during festival hours.

“My family has given me a greater degree of support than anyone could ever wish for. My mom still comes down to the bar, and she’s my worst customer because she doesn’t drink. She hangs out with my friends and tells embarrassing true stories about me.

“As to the transition, my first duty is to make a presentation to Ryko Distributors. They’re part of Warner Bros.’s distribution now. It doesn’t get much bigger. I hope to get Gemini Sun better position, more sales, a better presence. Although Ryko is located in NYC, I’m going to New Orleans very soon to a meeting where they have a showcase for all their artists and labels and major vendors.

“I’ve got some trade shows I have to go to and many national parks. Nicholas gives 10 percent of his sales to the national parks.

“Another big thing I’m going to try to do are licensing agreements, from anything from compilation CDs you can get at Pottery Barn to background music for hotels, airlines, movies, maybe even a movie soundtrack someday.

“Gemini Sun is located in Malibu, Calif., right off Point Dune. It’s a couple blocks from Cher’s house and just down the road from Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s other house. The coolest thing is to walk out on the patio and see the ocean,” Wachowiak beamed.

Gemini Sun’s Web site,, “About Us” section reads: “Basking in the golden sun just North of Los Angeles in Malibu, California, Gemini Sun Records continues its strong focus on contemporary instrumental and world music, while bridging the gaps between the popular music culture and the fringe genres that has defined its growth. Distributed nationally by Ryko Distribution and with the motto Music that illuminates your life…as its driving force, the label’s future embraces all music that inspires and molds the world we live in. Nicholas Gunn, founder and multi platinum recording artist says “to limit ourselves musically with what we represent only limits our growth and our message to the world. “It’s a bright future, and we want everyone to feel the warmth of Gemini Sun.”

Many people had some warm things to say about Wachowiak’s tenure at Kryptonite and his new career.

“He’s not afraid to try a bad idea twice,” said Mark Muraski, co-owner of Fuse Recording Studios, who used to book bands at Kryptonite for Wachowiak. “He really did kind of let me run wild booking some lesser-known big artists. He supported local live music over the last six years or so in a town that pretty much has lost most of our music venues. He’s always been there.”

Ald. Doug Mark (R-3) said: “Chris was a great activist and advocate for all of downtown. He really brought a positive attitude to see downtown be successful. It’s due to people like Chris that downtown is successful.”

Jerry Kortman, co-owner of J.R Kortman’s, said: “Doc and I will miss him and his creative spirit and energy that he put into downtown. We hope he returns to Rockford often and brings back even more creative ideas and energy.”

“I’ve known Chris since before he was tending bar at Bacchus for Chandler Anderson,” Realtor Dan Nieman said. “Everybody will say that they’ll miss him. But Chris and I have been talking about it, and I can’t see how distance or time will affect the aspects of his life out there or back here. I’ll miss going small mouth bass fishing and kayaking with him, which were his passions.”

Brio and Cru owner Paul Slettern said: “He’s the only guy I’ve ever seen fall off the monkey bars behind his own bar, and get up and make $5,000 on a ping-pong night. Chris has actually been one of the biggest inspirations that allows me to try different nights. He’s pulled off a lot of outside-the-box type of events, and he’s inspired me to try to do the same.”

Dan Minick, co-owner of Octane InterLounge and Fuzz Salon, said: “He’s been a great, young inspiration for the downtown River District. He’s an agent of change. He reinvents himself when needed. I feel he’s someone who’s had a pulse on his business and the community. He’s probably one of the biggest advocates of downtown that I know. Even though he’s leaving, I know he’ll keep a presence downtown.”

“I’ll be back enough to have people ask, ‘I thought you moved?’” Wachowiak said. “The friends and relationships I have here will never be forgotten, duplicated or underappreciated. I know everyone is still a phone call away. These friends, many of whom are musicians, politicians and business owners, have helped to make me what I am today. If you ask what my best day was, I’ll always tell you it’s been today.”

the July 11-17, 2007, issue

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