Margaret 'Marge' Levin, 81

Margaret 'Marge' Levin, co-owner of Washington Music Center, dies at 81

Ms. Levin
Ms. Levin (Family Photo - Family Photo)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 5, 2010

Margaret "Marge" Levin, 81, the co-owner with her husband of Chuck Levin's Washington Music Center, which retail trade publications have described as the largest free-standing music store in the United States, died March 2 at George Washington University Hospital of complications from pulmonary disease.

For nearly 50 years, Mrs. Levin ran the cash register and the business office of the store that a 2006 Washington Post article called "a retail powerhouse," "a local institution" and "an industry legend." The Levins founded the store in 1958 on H Street NE as an adjunct to a pawnshop operated by her husband's family. In 1968, they moved the store to Wheaton, where it came to occupy an entire city block.

The store, which specializes in the sale and rental of musical instruments and sound equipment, counts many famous musicians and groups among its regular patrons, including Stevie Wonder, the Rolling Stones, military bands and internationally renowned symphony orchestras.

According to Post articles, the Washington Music Center sells "more instruments than any other single music store in America" and rents more musical instruments to schools and students than any other store in the world. Brian Majeski, editor of Music Trades magazine, told The Post that it "outgrosses any individual store in Los Angeles or New York City by a wide margin."

Margaret Lipshultz was born in Washington and graduated from Western High School. She lived in Bethesda and was a member of Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim in Silver Spring. She and her husband were married in 1951.

Although the store bore her husband's name, Mrs. Levin was considered an equal partner. Beloved by employees and customers, she was described in The Post in 2006 as "a fixture behind the cash register" and "den mother to a thousand sons."

Chuck Levin died in 2002. Survivors include three children, Alan Levin of Poolesville, Robert Levin of Bethesda, and Abbe Levin of Bethesda and New York; a sister, Natalie Stewart of Silver Spring; and two grandchildren.

Mrs. Levin also directed the Charles and Margaret Levin Family Foundation, a charitable organization. The store is now operated by her children.

According to Alan Levin, his mother often gave discounts or extended payment terms to working musicians who needed extra money to continue performing or even to find a ride home from the store. No one at the store had a title, he said, but Mrs. Levin was technically the company president after her husband died.

"She was the first person you saw when you came in," Alan Levin said in an interview, "and the last person you saw on your way out."

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