Narrative: Mad Cow Curiosity Shop

An oddity.

A man sits behind a counter. A Bela Lugosi movie is playing behind him, but the audio is coming from a turntable. All around the store are various pop culture throwbacks from yesteryear; an Akira movie poster, a bin of Laser Discs, a wall of cassettes, and assorted video game cartridges. The shop also sells finely curated clothes, each cleaned and hung with utmost care.

Mad Cow Curiosity Shop is another store in Oberlin Ohio. Mad Cow offers an experience that feels unstuck in time. If the flat screen TV and modern movies were removed from the store, you would be fooled into believing you travelled back to the late 90s. The atmosphere is quirky, but nothing feels out of place.

The center of the store is where the records are. The header sign has a cow print pattern and reads “Mad Cow Records”. One table divided into six individual bins. All the records are vintage and include notes from the seller.




The curation of records implies a passion for the format. Cheech and Chong comedy records are left of the Blue Oyster Cult albums. There are absolutely no reissues or remasters present. These records are from an era where this was the dominant format. Seeing the detail and branding of the record portion of the store leads one to believe that this was originally supposed to be a record store.

I have lost count of the times I have been in Mad Cow, but no two times are the same. Brent Coward is the owner of the shop, his sole coworker is his dog Zeus. The store feels less like a retail front and more like a reflection of Brent’s personality. It’s eclectic, inviting, organized, and loving. The windows give a perfect view of the town square; sun light beaming through azure blue skies gleaming, kissing clouds and caressing leaves gently.

The conversations we have range from the production quality of analog-to-analog records, which he insists are much better than digital-to-analog pressings. We discuss how buying records before the internet made it too easy, and communications. He graduated with a degree in the subject, and at the time I was an undergrad. I feel a sense of friendship with somebody I barely know, and it is all through the medium of records.

I mention this red Sound Design boombox that I think he would love to have in the shop that I recently acquired, and the next time I am in the neighborhood I will bring it to him. He has a knack for cleaning up and fixing old electronics, so it feels natural that he keeps it.

March 7, 2020 was the last time I visited the shop, and I found myself enamored with a copy of Procol Harem, but hesitating to buy it after my previous purchases. The store is busy with customers and Brent is engaged in conversation. I tell myself that I can talk to him the next time I stop by. I yearn for the next time I can visit the shop.

Click here to support Mad Cow during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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Jose Diaz

Collector of analog media.

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2 Responses

  1. Brent Coward says:

    What an incredibly eloquent description of your *experience* at The Mad Cow! I highlight experience because that is the focus, and you nailed it. Perfectly stated, this is an extension/expression of myself. And those conversations are a big part of why I do this. I take great joy in getting to know everyone (customers, students, townspeople, faculty, business owners…). Thank you so very much for taking the time to write this!

  2. Brent Coward says:

    I accidentally gave this a thumbs down (with my fat thumb), and couldn’t change it… Of course I want to give it a thousand thumbs up!!!

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