The Vertical Drop becomes adept at changing for the seasons

Tony Kampling will be the first to admit his ownership of The Vertical Drop was somewhat of an accident.

He had just traveled to Hong Kong for a business trip and was jet lagged and couldn't sleep that night. He decided to go online and came across a listing for a business for sale in St. Charles. Though the business wasn't named, Kampling knew from his previous visits to the shop it was The Vertical Drop.

"From my perspective as a customer it was a wonderful store," said Kampling, who had purchased his patio and ski equipment at the store. "It was one of those things where you see something like it and you say 'I'd love to own that.' "

When he realized the shop was for sale, Kampling went to work to make his dream come true. In 2005, he took over ownership of the downtown St. Charles store, located on a prime corner at Route 31 and Main Street.

"It's a one of a kind place," said Kampling, who worked for BP before buying the shop.

The shop, which has been a mainstay in St. Charles since 1979, is known for its complete array of ski equipment in the fall and winter months and for its unique patio furniture in the spring and summer months.

"There's nothing you can buy at our store that isn't about having fun," Kampling said. "That's what I love about it … It's about relaxation, fun and enjoyment. We do our best to find stuff that makes that happen and we think it's the best you can find."

Because the shop specializes in two areas, Kampling says he "cherry picks" the items that make it to the 13,000-square-foot store.

"What we try to do is carry the best of the breed no matter what it is," said Kampling, who was first introduced to the shop in 1990 by his brother.

The shop recently went through its annual change over from ski equipment to patio furniture. The store's summer lineup includes tables and chairs, outdoor sofas and recliners, and more. Kampling noted that the growing trend of outdoor living areas helps draw customers to his shop.

"The largest space people have is the outside and they want to use it," Kampling said.

Kampling bought all his patio furniture at the shop in the days when he was a customer. As owner of the shop he has worked to expand the store's offerings.

"We've tried to change up the product mix to be more interesting," he said. "We've tried to carry things that are more unusual.

"If you're going to come to The Vertical Drop I think you deserve to find something that you're not going to find anywhere else," he added.

He added that the shop also has a staff well-versed in the products. Of the 20 people who work at the store, Kampling is the novice.

The Vertical Drop is at 116 W. Main St. and can be reached at (630) 584-1250. Summer store hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Customers can also visit the store online at

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