If you’re looking for Fender gear in the Washington, D.C., area and you happen to ask where you might find longtime dealer Washington Music Center, you’re more likely to get a puzzled look as you are to get a familiar nod and directions. If on the other hand you ask for directions to “Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center” or, better yet, “Chuck Levin’s” or even just “Chuck’s,” then you’re bound to get much better results.
And as you near it you can’t miss it, there being a large red Stratocaster® bisecting the large sign on the front of the store. You really can’t get more “Fender-y” than that.
Indeed, the formal name of the establishment founded in 1958 by Chuck and Marge Levin and currently run by their sons, Alan and Robert, daughter Abbe, and Robert’s son, Adam, is in fact Washington Music Center. But nobody calls it that. Not in a very long time. To most, it is simply “Chuck’s,” and everyone is happy with that.
Whatever you prefer to call it, what’s for certain is that “Chuck’s” carries an extensive and widely varied selection of Fender instruments and amps, and has done so for a very long time. The establishment is in fact almost as old as Fender itself, and current co-owner Alan Levin notes that the latter is practically part of the DNA of the former.
“It was really one of the first premier lines we had,” Levin said. “We grew up with Fender. As we got bigger they got bigger.”
“I remember, the first Fender rep that came in had his own plane,” he said. “This was in the early ’60s, and everybody here thought, ‘Oh my god, these guys are selling everything they make.’”
Half a century later, Washington Music Center—er, Chuck’s—is going stronger than ever and is selling practically everything that Fender makes. In 30,000 thousand square feet of display space and many more thousands of square feet of adjacent warehouse space in a handful of buildings that take up most of the block there on Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton, Md. (the original store at 12th and H streets in downtown Washington, D.C., was destroyed in the April 1968 rioting in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.), you will find literally hundreds of Fender guitars, basses, amps and accessories from many different series, including the Custom Shop.
Indeed, as the busy retailer’s website (www.chucklevins.com) notes, “We carry so much gear in fact that we can’t even begin to display it all, so make sure if there is something you are looking for that you don’t see, make sure you ask about it, chances are we have it. Many a customer has been unable to pass up something cool we ‘happened to have in the basement.’”
You can bet that a fair share of all that cool stuff in the basement is emblazoned with the Fender logo. For his part, Alan Levin is confident that any Fender gear his customers seek may well be there on the premises, upstairs or down.
“It’s everything from A to Z,” he said. “If Fender makes it, we carry it.”