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Cyd Gottlieb, Lizzie Friedman & Torch Sanchez | Culture Clash Records

For our last feature in 2023 we’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to some of the team at Culture Clash Records a Toledo, Ohio iconic institution now in the hands of Lizzie Friedman and her partner Tim, who are set to keep it a record buyer destination for many years to come, with their passion for vinyl and a team with the same dedication and love for their records and community.

In this interview, you’ll meet Cyd Gottlieb, the Assistant Manager at Culture Clash Records. Within the last year and a half, she has handled digital promotion and partnerships labels and distributors. 

Lizzie Friedman who co-owns Culture Clash Records together with her partner, Tim. Tim is at the store full time with Torch and Cyd, while Lizzie works more behind-the-scenes.  Lizzie is heavily involved in all high-level planning and decision making, in addition to coaching their other leaders around people management issues as needed. She coordinates and facilitates staff meetings and handles much of our collaboration with other community organizations and independent small businesses.  Additionally, Lizzie works on special event planning, including booking their outdoor vendor and community organization fair in conjunction with Record Store Day in 2021, which has turned into a main feature of the all-day party they throw for RSD. 

Last but certainly not least, Torch Sanchez, the manager and buyer for Culture Clash. They also do small repairs and cleaning of stereo equipment, and have been with the shop since before Lizzie and Tim took over, which you’ll read more about below. 

When the crew is not at the shop, Cyd keeps her priorities to coffee, hangs with her dog, painting to podcasts or albums as daylight unfolds. She is also a working visual artist and keeps a part-time studio practice. “Get me to a craft store, and I’ll figure out how to involve my impulse buys into commissioned pieces or artworks for sale.” She’s also a part of a few virtual community groups, “I like to feel connected to a world outside of Ohio, while helping to cultivate a local creative scene from within. It’s cool when so many of your friends also happen to be small business owners and entrepreneurs.”  Find her work here: www.pischonk.com

For Lizzie, she’s a huge TV and film nerd, with a love of non-fiction books and podcasts, particularly on the topics of behavioral science, psychology and personal development, cults, scams, and autobiography/memoir! She also maintains a full time job as Chief of a Staff for a small company that does program evaluation studies for not-for-profits’ grant funded programs. Other than that, she says “…spending time with my perfect cat Jemma and hanging out with friends when I can, talking about or enjoying any of the aforementioned things together. I also love to travel when I’ve got time and budget for it.”

Torch outside of the shop, plays a lot of video games and enjoys tinkering with stuff. “If I learn how to fix something or how it works, then I become a little obsessed with it. If I learn to take something apart and put it back together, then I want to do it over and over again“.

How did you get into your industry / What motivated you?

Cyd: Though my parents were avid collectors and played records throughout my childhood, my entry into vinyl life was unexpected. The format didn’t integrate into my own routine until about three years ago, mainly due to Natasha (affectionately known as “Torch” in the shop). We met during the early months of the pandemic, before I worked at Culture Clash, and at the time, I was quietly experiencing major health problems. Leading up to a surgery date, Torch created a playlist for me based off of their personal vinyl catalog, and shortly after my operation, they were kind enough to let me move in with them and recover for many months in their one-bedroom apartment during a time when I was relearning to walk and unable to work. While resting in their space, I drew a lot and listened to the physical albums that I had first heard digitally, per their recommendation.

Eventually, I grew to better understand their collection and really enjoyed the “off-the-grid” aspect of vinyl.  As I was slowly regaining my physical strength, Torch, Tim, and Lizzie offered me a flexible part-time position at the shop in early 2021. Seeing as how online orders were plentiful, I would come in to help with shipping for a couple of hours at a time. Once I was able to afford my own place, Torch set me up with a Pro-Ject Primary E Phono turntable and some bluetooth-capable Edifier bookshelf speakers, which I used often while painting in my little basement studio apartment. I was lucky enough to benefit from Torch’s library and also began to collect some records of my own.

Now, after years of working in the store and taking in various genres, I love talking music and look forward to learning about new releases and obscure bands’ back-catalogs. More often than not, I’ll even realize that a song from my own early digital playlist days exists on vinyl!

Lizzie: I met my partner Tim at the tail end of our college experiences in 2008. He was majoring in business and entrepreneurship because his dream was to one day own a record store and / or label. Because I am also art and community-minded, this quickly became a shared dream that we talked about all the time. Whenever we’d visit a new-to-us record store together, we’d talk about what we loved and ideas we’d borrow if we ever opened our own. Of course, the reality of the real world set in and we both wound up in the corporate world with no real ability to raise the capital to start our own place. But then, at the end of 2016, the beloved original owner of our favorite store, Pat O’Connor of Culture Clash, passed away unexpectedly. We continued shopping at the store in early 2017, and Tim was eventually put in contact with the late owner’s wife. By the end of their first lunch meeting, she knew she wanted him to be the one to take over the business. So, with a chance to take over and keep Culture Clash Records alive for our community on the line, we were somewhat miraculously able to scrape together the money to buy what essentially amounted to the inventory and brand.

In May 2017, it became official. I kept my job so that we could survive, and Tim eventually quit his corporate gig to focus on the store full time. People frequently ask me about my decision to support Tim in what was a truly risky, complete left-turn from the life trajectory we had been on together, and I always laugh at the question, because for me, it was hardly a question at all — when your partner gets a chance at THE dream, you jump! It’s been absolutely, incredibly hard, but the privilege of continuing this legacy and providing this vital gathering space for art, artists, and people of all walks to gather, shop, perform, and feel comfortable, not to mention a place to employ and mentor young, creative people, to see them grow and develop, and to collaborate with like-minded managers to grow the business, is without question worth it. I wouldn’t trade the richness that co-owning Culture Clash has brought to my life for anything.

Torch: I frequented every record store within a 20 mile radius ever since I could convince my parents and friends to drive me around. It is every music lover’s dream to get paid to hang out in a record store, so when I saw that Culture Clash was conducting open interviews, I called in late to work at my bar job and lined up outside of the store with many other local hopefuls in order to land the gig. When I got the job, I was delegated small tasks around the shop but aspired to be able to curate the World section of the store. I loved taking in information about every aspect of the job and eventually became the buyer, manager, and resident tinkerer.

What is a day in the life like?

Cyd: If getting to the shop in the morning, coffee is number one. No matter the mood, there is a mug for that in our cabinet. Next, I’ll check online orders and pull items for shipping. Periodically, we’re all receiving new items, buying and pricing out used collections, and posting restock updates for our loyal audience on Instagram. I’m usually checking social media or messaging with regulars, and if I’m looking at my phone, then I’m most likely doing my job! On Fridays, you can find me in the front of the store posting about and interacting with artists and labels who have new releases out that day. As more staff trickles in, we chat up customers, throw on random music, and keep the shop current. 

Torch: A normal day for me is full of reviewing spreadsheets of in-stock catalogs, plus reading emails. On my favorite days, I am wearing a headlamp and cleaning up stereo equipment. I also love working the counter on Fridays and Saturdays and seeing all of our weekend regulars. Chatting up folks in our community is always a good time, and I love to hear what people are excited about or hope to see in the store.

What has been your favorite sale / relationship made from behind the counter?

Cyd: When social media was the main form of connection during COVID days, a store regular learned about my spinal surgery fiasco and reached out to support me through the purchase of one of my drawings. He and Torch have maybe the closest musical taste that I can identify out of most of our customers, and we would chat about albums, too. It turns out that his kids went to the same high school that I attended, and somehow, I became an unofficial mentor to them – noting where to rent an apartment within the neighborhood, talking about potential colleges to attend, and addressing personal challenges within the region due to social and political landscape. Anytime this customer or his kids would walk through the doors of Culture Clash, I felt responsible to locate some sense of happiness for them, whether in the bins or outside of the store, and we all have become very close. He and I even go grab coffee together and catch up on life, from time to time! Our shop strives to be a community resource, and it warms my heart to see how conversations and relationships extend beyond our walls.

Lizzie: This one is so hard! We have so many store regulars who have become friends and I love catching up with them when they stop in. But for me, it’s the relationships I’ve made with our store staff. Most of our staff stay for at least a few years, and to get to be a part of their lives as they grow from big kids into young adults, and getting to support them through that stage of development, is so rewarding and precious to me. I love getting to be a sort of surrogate Store Mom… well, maybe more of a cool aunt! Sometimes we even get to support our staff creatively, like financing a run of tapes or CDs for our staff who are also musicians, and it makes me so happy to be able to be a small part of bringing those projects to life. I also absolutely love the collaborative relationship with our managers. Torch, for example, has been at Culture Clash since before we took over, and she’s been nothing short of instrumental in its continued success and growth, not to mention committed and steadfast through hard times and hard conversations alike. We met and began collaborating with Cyd on projects in 2020, and she quickly became a great friend and transitioned to a core team member. I could never say enough great things about the amazing people who work at Culture Clash, including those who have since moved on. It’s truly a joint labor of love.

Torch: We have a local jazz legend in Toledo by the name of Kimathi Asante from the ’70s spiritual jazz ensemble The Pyramids. He started coming in a handful of years ago to sell a little of his collection at a time. He obviously has AMAZING records spanning a lot of genres and some very hard to find items (including multiple original pressings of The Pyramids’ early catalog). Whenever he visits the store, he always has an amazing story to share, and I love to be able to tell customers who buy Pyramids records that he comes in from time to time. He is a very humble person who is genuinely surprised every time I tell him, “We just sold some of your records the other day!“

In your opinion what has been the coolest thing to come through your shop / the thing you had to keep / almost couldn’t put out for sale?

Cyd: Perhaps there is an answer for some sort of rare record, but I truly believe that some of our local talents are secrets that just can’t be kept. Of course, Toledoans contributed to early Motown records, with many people driving up to Detroit to lend vocals or instrumentation to various tracks. These days, it is so cool to see how our store helps to press, produce, or give a platform to emerging musicians. Also, I have become obsessed with Tim Story’s music, and he lives one town over. We keep a 1983 pressing of his first record behind the counter for in-store play.

Additionally, an older couple decided to offload their collection before moving, and surprisingly, they had a bunch of old Yiddish records and tapes, which took me aback, since it’s not a common thing to see around here. We don’t carry 78s in the store, and in conversation, I mentioned that I am Jewish, and they gave me a Purim-themed book of music intended for children that was published in 1949 by Menorah Records. I found it both comical and fascinating, and the cover illustration was awesome. This piece is now displayed on a bookshelf at home, and I’ve started to comb through any available Yiddish LPs as a way to feel closer to my ancestors and absorb their linguistic sounds. It’s an odd and unique feeling.

Lizzie: I’m a huge fan of Norwegian pop icon, Sigrid, and I’ve had the opportunity to see her twice on her US tours at El Club in Detroit, which is a really intimate space compared to the venues and festivals she plays across Europe. We were only able to get two copies of her debut full length “Sucker Punch” in 2019, one of which I kept and the other of which sold quickly to someone who heard me playing it in the store the day it came in. So I was fully geeked when we got the opportunity to carry a handful of signed copies of her 2022 sophomore release “How to Let Go.” Since she’s not huge in the US yet, it felt like a secret I get to share with our community. If you enjoy killer vocals, earnest lyrics, and utterly perfect pop production, she is an artist not to be missed.

Torch: I have a relatable answer and a weirdo answer. The relatable answer is that we had a copy of Rodriguez’s ‘Cold Fact’ come through, and I had to get it because it was a 1974 South African pressing. If you know the lore behind Rodriguez, then you know that the fact that it was a South African pressing is very significant and, frankly, fucking awesome. So, despite seeing US pressings come through, I knew that I had to add that to my collection.

The weirdo answer is that, when Culture Clash’s original owner, Pat O’Connor, co-owned Boogie Records in the ’80s, a guy who had some 7″s on consignment used to drop by. This guy would constantly ask if any of his records sold, and the answer was always, “No.” Cut to a few decades later, and we still have four out of the five original 7″s that transferred between the two shops, and the record has become a bit of local legend. The artist is Dennis Wolfe, and the music is the most wild, out of pocket stuff I maybe have ever heard in my life. There is plenty of Dennis Wolfe local mythology out there, including whispers of famous musicians reaching out to Pat to buy a copy. If the rumor is true, then I think the ONLY copy that Pat sold was to Bob Pollard of Guided By Voices (maybe I will ask him next time he is in the shop).

What has been / is the most difficult part of your job?

Cyd: Aside from the typical challenge of work-life boundaries (Sometimes, you’ve got to step away!), I will say that it can be difficult to deal with some customers who casually use language in a way that would maybe slide if we all lived in less contemporary times. Specifically, I don’t appreciate inappropriate comments by older men who think that boundary-crossing is a form of flattery. Whenever this happens, I try to be as direct as possible to let them know that I am not impressed by whatever may be perceived as a compliment but actually feels offensive or intrusive. Please, control yourselves. 

Lizzie: Without a doubt, other than the stress that comes with being a small business owner, the hardest part for me is juggling my full time “real job” with the amount of time and energy I want to put toward Culture Clash. There’s always more that could be done, more exciting ideas to be implemented, and finding enough hours in the day for all of it is impossible. We’re eager and we’re impatient to make everything happen, but whether it’s time or other circumstantial factors limiting us, I have had to grow into being okay with moving at a more sustainable pace, and accepting that we’ll get to everything at some point.

Torch: Product not arriving in time for release day has been quite an obstacle to navigate. It is a huge headache when I have pre-ordered 50 copies of the new big pop album and am told that it will be overnighted to the store, but it doesn’t show until Tuesday or Wednesday of the following week. I want our community to choose local over Target, so inconsistencies in deliveries put us at risk of seeming unreliable.

What has been the craziest experience that has happened at the shop?

Cyd: There was a man who came into the store to see about a snow-plow bill, and he reeked of gasoline. Turns out that there was a baby dog tucked into his jean coveralls, with their head peeking out. After he left, we started singing “gasoline dog” to the tune of T. Rex’s “Telegram Sam.”

Lizzie: Can I say surviving the entire last few years, starting with 2020?? Since I have a background in public health, we took the pandemic extremely seriously, implementing in-store safety measures and curbside pickup early on, and actually shutting down ahead of our state’s mandate. We had to pivot quickly to improve our online sales capability and implement other creative solutions to ensure the business survived while fielding pushback and complaints from a vocal minority of community members. There were a few weeks there where our staff took unemployment to survive and I took over packing and shipping of daily orders for the first time. Then in late summer 2020, we also moved our store from its original location in West Toledo to a beautiful, historic Downtown building, so organizing and executing that whole process while social distancing was complicated as well. Despite pressures to open, we stayed closed to the public and required masking indoors well past the governmental requirements, as our priority has been the safety of our community. It was a wild time, but I have no regrets about our priorities, and our loyal community supported and kept us afloat throughout.

Torch: In 2016, Culture Clash’s original owner Pat passed away unexpectedly. I came on board shortly after. It was pretty wild to see a group of 19 to 23-year-olds stepping up to figure out how to run a store. I was more of an “extra hand” at that point, just pricing records, organizing the bins, and shipping out online orders. Before our new owners Tim and Lizzie finalized the purchase of the store, we successfully pulled off ordering and organizing a Record Store Day. It was a whirlwind experience, which ended up being so much freaking fun and a great tribute to our old owner and Toledo legend, Pat O’Connor.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get into pursuing what you’re doing?

Cyd: Show up, ask questions, and follow up on conversations. Listen to what your body and mind need, and everyone’s speed or pace is different. Personally, I really enjoy the Creative Independent as a resource for any sort of writer, musician, artist etc. Their Instagram page posts  highlighted excerpts and snippets from interviews, which tend to inspire and energize. There is no one way to get anywhere. Feel free to forge your own path.  

It sounds cliche, but there will never be a “right time” to take the leap and follow your dream. You will never feel “ready.” Starting is the hardest part, and it gets so much easier after you get over that hump. Then once you’re going, stop waiting for some arbitrary authority to deem you successful. Stop waiting for the imposter syndrome to fade away naturally and begin consciously acknowledging your own progress. Zoom out and take objective stock of your progress. Maybe you’re not where you want to be yet, but that goal post is always going to be moving. Celebrate and validate your damn self! – Lizzie

Torch: The best thing you can do is just go to your favorite record store and ask questions. Whether you are buying something or just looking, record store employees are full of tons of useful (and useless) knowledge and love to share it with folks who are interested. Whether you are curious about how a cartridge works or what the staff’s favorite Funkadelic record is, I’m sure that you can get a nice earful of information from your local record store staff.

Are you a vinyl collector yourself? What drew you to it?

Cyd: Having previously worked within the fine art industry and academic publishing on the East Coast, the vinyl industry feels like a seamless transition. In whichever industry, condition assessments are crucial, and press placements or promotional events help to bring in an audience. In a way, those jobs that didn’t work out primed me for the music industry. You’ve got visuals, and you’ve got liner notes. Through publicity campaigns, editorial needs, or fundraising measures, my former roles had centered on my ability to make sense of others’ creative output for mainstream reception, and the DIY nature of Toledo makes it easy for me to channel a style that feels natural and resonates with our store’s demographic. People yearn for connection, and maybe there is a hometown advantage. All in all, you are a matchmaker for your clients or customers. The Midwest is my language, and it sounds good.

Lizzie: Yes. Tim was already a collector when we met, and I was already a music obsessive, so it naturally spilled over into the homes we shared together. These days I have my own designated “Lizzie Music” section in our home collection.

Torch: I was raised in a super musical multi-generational household of musicians and music lovers. As a kid, I was surrounded by Tejano, R&B, Metal, Pop, Punk, and Hip-Hop influences, encouraging me to give any type of music a chance. I have been collecting CDs and tapes since I was very young and started collecting vinyl when I was 14. Now, I have around 1,000 LPs, hundreds of CDs and dozens of tapes. There is nothing better to me than the ability to fully experience the music that you like in the physical format. The experience of holding a tangible piece of art and reading the liner notes and artist credits is truly a beautiful thing that I have always enjoyed.

What types of things are happening in your industry / with vinyl that you’re excited or worried about? i.e. innovation, or trends you’re seeing.

Cyd: Though I have no idea of how or where to start, I am SO interested in getting more involved in package design, and it is exciting to see how visuals continue to play a huge part in vinyl sales and contribute to the industry as a whole. Last year, I designed some rolling papers for the store, and it is thrilling to watch customers pick up those booklets and compliment the artwork. With the boom of color vinyl, I feel compelled to one day learn how to combine colors and make patterns in wax and look to Wax Mage out of Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland for inspiration. The process seems strangely similar to glass blowing, for which Toledo is known, even if maybe that is totally far from the truth.

Lizzie: I’m excited and encouraged that the average age of our customers has trended downward over the last six and a half years since we bought the store. Culture Clash definitely welcomes and loves vinyl newbies, and the opportunity to hook people up with their first ever turntable setup is always exciting. Seeing young people’s eyes light up when they discover their favorite artists in our bins for the first time, and then seeing so many of them become store regulars, really warms my heart and makes me excited for the future of our industry.

Torch: I get excited that every year I see more and more record stores trusting their younger staff with handling social media and curating sections of the store. It is so important that different generations of music lovers play to their strengths and learn from each other.

Who has been influential to you and your growth as a professional in this industry? Help expand the spotlight!

Cyd: Torch, duh. Right when I came on staff, they recommended the Women in Vinyl podcast, and I was totally impressed to know that a support system full of deep resources already existed, which was so much more than what any of my previous professional industries ever offered or entertained. From there, I became acquainted with the Alliance of Independent Media Stores coalition and absorbed so much from the group while at Summer Camp in New Orleans this past August. If there’s a question, the group email chain will answer. It is so special to have a direct line of communication with people who have been in the business for decades. It’s also uplifting to see so many young people pioneer social strategy and merchandising opportunities within their stores.

Torch: The Alliance of Independent Media Stores (AIMS) coalition! Being part of an independent record store coalition is such an amazing thing. To be able to bounce ideas or questions off of people who have been in the game longer than I have been alive is such an immense help. When you’re starting to interact with labels and distributors for the first time, you may assume, “I guess this is how it is, and that is it,” but I have learned to fight for our store and indie stores in general. HUGE thanks to my coalition sister Lindsay Cates at Stinkweeds — she is such a badass and was one of the first record store buddies I made in AIMS.

Anything else you’d like to add, if not tell me what you’re listening to:

Cyd: If you show me anything related to Latin American psych rock and instrumentals, I’m down. It’s tough to find a lot of that ‘70s style on vinyl, and what is getting pressed usually intrigues me.

Lizzie: At the moment I am really digging Vagabon’s new record, “Sorry I Haven’t Called“

Torch: I don’t have favorites of many things in life, but I do have my constants. I come from a family of Tejano musicians, so Tejano and Norteño music will always feel like home to me. In general, I really enjoy a lot of different kinds of world music, especially records coming from Latin American and West African artists.

Find Cyd, Lizzie & Torch:


Cyd: @pischonk02

Lizzie: @lizzizzie

Culture Clash: @cultureclash

Facebook: @CultureClashRecords

Website: www.cultureclashrecords.com

All photos in this feature taken by Grant Beachy

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We hope you enjoyed this content! If so inclined please donate so we can continue bringing you more like this. There is no amount too small.