Chuck Levin, 76, the owner and president of the legendary Washington Music Center of Wheaton that music trade publications have called the world's largest single music store, died of cancer Dec. 22 at his home in Bethesda.
He founded the business on H Street in Washington in 1958 and moved it to Wheaton a decade later. The store, with more than 100 employees, takes up four warehouses and nearly a full city block.
Mr. Levin presided over a business that not only leased and sold musical instruments but also repaired instruments and set up sound, lighting and recording systems for homes, music studios, schools, nightclubs and airports.
Over the years, the store's customers included Stevie Wonder; such groups as the Moody Blues, the Talking Heads and the Rolling Stones; U.S. military service bands; and others around the world.
The business sold and leased such items as Fender, Gibson, Hamar, Peavey and Taylor guitars; Akai, Ensoniq, Kawai, Korg, Roland and Yamaha keyboards; Ludwig, Pearl and Tama percussion instruments; and others from Armstrong, Bach, Bundy and Holton.
In 2001, the store received six major awards from the National Association of Music Merchants, including those for best pro audio and lighting departments and for best music store.
Yet, Mr. Levin's heart did not seem to be entirely with sales to professionals or in catering to musical celebrities.
In October 1998, The Washington Post published a story about Mr. Levin and his business in which he said working with children gave him the greatest satisfaction. "That's why I started renting," he said.
The story focused on the fact that in the previous three weeks he had rented more than 3,800 band instruments to Washington area schoolchildren.
A store spokesman said that it was the largest volume distributor of school instruments in the world. Perhaps one of the ways the store secured that honor was through its prices.
A rental for a school year might cost less than $100. The Post reported that Mr. Levin had been leasing instruments to children for 35 years, and during that time, prices had gone up only 10 percent.
Mr. Levin, who was born in the Bronx, N.Y., came to the Washington area as a teenager. He served with the Merchant Marine in the Atlantic during World War II.
He was a member of B'nai Israel Congregation in Rockville.
Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Margie Levin, and a daughter, Abbe Levin, both of Bethesda; two sons, Alan and Robert, both of Rockville; a sister; and two grandchildren.