Remembering Robert Levin – 1945-2021

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Remembering Robert Levin – 1945-2021

We are deeply saddened to announce that Robert Levin, the owner of Hawthorne Stereo, has passed away from natural causes.

This past year he celebrated his 50th year as the store’s owner.

“Bob,” as he was affectionately called by his customers, worked tirelessly to create an easygoing environment where newcomers and audiophiles alike could enjoy the process of filling their homes with music.

He steered the ship from the era of the turntable and reel-to-reel, through recessions, industry downsizing, and a global pandemic, to the era of digital streaming and once again, the turntable.

His quick wit, charm, and down-to-earth attitude helped to create incredibly long lasting relationships with customers and staff alike. We regularly hear customers saying “I’ve been dealing with Bob since the seventies.” The average length of employment among current staff is fifteen years.

His presence and friendship will be sorely missed by all of us. It is truly the end of an era, and Hawthorne Stereo will never be the same. We are committed, however, to keeping this “pretty nice place” alive using the same principles and values that guided Robert during his long tenure.

Rest in peace Robert Levin, “a pretty nice guy”…

 

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Comments

  1. Tyrone Heade Tyrone Heade

    Oh my goodness, just seeing this now. I bought from Bob at the original "Hawthorne Stereo" in Portland, late High School and early College. When I moved to Seattle in '88, I was surprised to see the Hawthorne Stereo sign in Roosevelt. I stopped in with a Nakamichi cassette deck that needed repair - it had distinctive wood side panels. I walked into the store, set it on the glass counter, and Bob said, "Where did you get this??" and I said, "From you, Bob." It was, and I'm sure will remain, a delight to walk into the store. I noticed over the years he always picked excellent folks to work with. You've all been consistently great over the years. I'm so saddened by this news. I have no doubt you'll keep it "a pretty nice place". I'll try to stop by soon. If you need a tune, feel free to call guys.....

  2. Bill Jones Bill Jones

    Like so many of us long time regulars, Bob and the store was/is Hi-Fi in Seattle - bar none. Reading all the comments makes me smile to understand we all felt the same affection for him. Whatever reason I needed to go to the store, seeing and hearing Bob was my day's pleasure. Missing you Bob.

  3. TONY L ENDERS TONY L ENDERS

    I was stunned to hear from Matthew that Robert had passed. I have known him as a client and friend for 40 years. I always appreciated his professionalism and occasional banter. Anyone that knows sarcasm was always good in my book. Having recently moved to Arizona I was still intent on doing business with Robert. Before I left, he gave me some recommendations for vintage stereo in Phoenix. I never met his daughters, but I knew them through Robert as we talked about our girls occasionally. I hope they are at peace with the passing of their father. I will miss you, Robert. You cannot be replaced. All the best to the staff at Hawthorne. Regards, Tony

  4. Eric Anderson Eric Anderson

    Bob introduced me to Naim in 2001. I just recapped the 250/72 I bought from him this month. I moved away from Seattle in 2003, but have always bought equipment from Hawthorne no matter what part of the country I lived in. Only 18 months ago he sold me a mint Creek 5350 integrated for my home studio. This makes me super sad.

  5. Tom Lienesch Tom Lienesch

    My condolences to Bob's family, friends and the excellent staff at Hawthorne, he will be truly missed. During the many years of going to Hawthorne I came to regard it, meaning Bob and the staff, as one of the (rare) establishments that continue to feed the City with character, integrity and humor - plus a dash of self-effacement . A pretty nice place, indeed.

  6. Andy Schneider Andy Schneider

    I've been a customer since Bob sold me my first entry into high end (Epos ES 12, Rega Mira, Planar 3) in the 90s when I was in middle school, and I've always enjoyed returning for upgrades and, frankly, loitering around the store because it is one of the few shops around that gave me that kid'in'candystory feeling, even today while I'm in my late 30s. I think I spent more money there (and had more ROI from that investment) than any other singular organization aside from the IRS.

    And beyond Bob himself, the staff whom I'm sure he hand picked and managed throughout was just as great, and I'd often leave the shop with nothing more than obscure music recommendations (Squarepusher, Warp Records, etc) that, thinking back, had more to do with my taste and current music production than any other source. How the f*** any other store, offline or online, will be able to achieve anything close to that seems incomprehensible.

    Bob and the legacy he created is one of the local treasures that defined Seattle and, either directly or indirectly, much of my love for music and the enjoyable reproduction thereof. I'm not religious, though part of me is thinking that heaven is about to sound a whole lot better, but we'll certainly miss his terrestrial presence. Until next time, Bob, and thanks for everything.

  7. David Endicott David Endicott

    I'm so sorry to hear the news that Robert passed away. Condolences to his family and the great staff at Hawthorne. I always appreciated his honest advice over the past few years. He will be missed.

  8. pqb pqb

    still have my nait 3 , rega planet cd , & meadowlark / kestrel speakers bob sold me...beyond countless hours now of listening & learning & simply rockin' out...still nice!

  9. Tony Limtiaco Tony Limtiaco

    Still in shock over this and not exactly sure how to process it.

    I walked into Hawthorne Stereo in Bellevue because a friend told me about Kyocera CD Players. After hearing them kill a "high-end" Technics player, and then wandering into the big room and asking about the funny little black boxes, John Vernig was nice enough to do Naim Nait vs. Aragon 24K/4004 comparison with a California Audio Labs Tempest II CD Player as the source. The proverbial David vs. Goliath audio demo. I left with a Kyocera DA410, Naim NAC62 and Naim NAP90. I knew right then that I wanted to work there and offered my services if they ever had an opening. Who knew it would only be a couple of months later?

    First time I met Bob, "Chief" as I started calling him, was when he interviewed me. That was 33 years ago, more than half my life ago, and we always stayed in touch even after I left Hawthorne. He was a great friend over the years. I will always be thankful for getting a chance to work at "A pretty nice place".

    I'll remember our shenanigans in Las Vegas during CES, riding in the various cars he would purchase, him watching me set up a Linn LP-12 for 3 hours to get it perfect, his "just like Christmas day" look when some obscure or incredibly large piece of audio equipment would arrive in the mail (think pairs, plural, of Acoustat Electrostatic Speakers) and our constant search for good demo music.

    I'm very saddened to hear of Bob's passing. His sense of humor, his witty banter, his non-technical rhetoric during demos, and his penchant for haggling a deal on another Phillips 312, Nakamichi tape deck, or Akai Reel to Reel will forever stay in my mind.

    My heartfelt condolences to Bob's family and the Hawthorne family.

  10. Geoff Patrick Geoff Patrick

    Hawthorne Stereo — its excellent staff and my many satisfying purchases and experiences — has been an important presence in my life for nearly two decades. It’s a major shock to hear of Robert’s passage. I will always remember him. My sincere condolences to the team and his loved ones, and I hope the torch he lit will continue burning bright.

  11. Laurence Chen Laurence Chen

    Sorry news. Thanks, Bob, for all you've done and for you being you. Condolences to the family and staff.

  12. Jeff Hack   (a.k.a Hawk) Jeff Hack (a.k.a Hawk)

    I will miss Robert very much, I have to admit that this one hits me pretty hard…. I tallied up the years last night and it turns out I’ve known him for at least 28+ years.

    At first I was one of Hawthorne’s “annoying regulars”, switching out kit right and left until one day Robert finally gave me an ultimatum and sent me home with a couple simple Naim pieces saying “here, try this…. If you like it you will be spending a lot more money here than you ever thought, if you don’t like it I don’t think we’ve got whatever it is you’re looking for”. Simple. To the point. Perfect.

    He was right. I slowly morphed out of my “annoying regular” phase a year or two later to Robert politely asking if I would “consider, considering coming to work” for him. I gladly accepted and worked with him for 6 years. I am a proud member of the Hawthorne Employee Alumni Association. Those were good years. I learned a lot from him and many of my now “best and dear friends” were customers I met while working at Hawthorne.

    Even after I left Hawthorne Robert let me keep a key and use the store as an after hours rehearsal space for my Jazz trio…. A true friend!

    Believe it or not, through the years on several occasions I would have a conversation with him trying to find out if he had any inkling of how rare and special Hawthorne really was in the whole country and that he was the real reason that made it special… quite extraordinary actually…. I think he had an inkling, but not really a full grasp on how many people he helped and connected with not only through hi-fi, but on a real personal level.

    I am very blessed to have known him….!

  13. Greg Hale Greg Hale

    So sorry to hear of Bob's passing. He was an honest and enjoyable human being, and helped me discover audio enthusiasm and musical discovery. My condolences to his family and to the Hawthorne employees.

  14. Frank Corrrado Frank Corrrado

    Devastated. Simply devastated. He was so much more to me than a mere salesman. He was my friend, as are other folks at Hawthorne. He was (is) one of a kind and I will miss him forever. He turned me into a loyal and unrepentant Naimista and I remain grateful for that. This is sad beyond measure.

  15. Marshall Katzen Marshall Katzen

    I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear about Bob. He introduced me to audio in 1960 when we would discuss it at length when we should have been studying on high school. We were friends through out college and beyond. So sorry we were on different coasts. My heart goes out to his family.

  16. Robert Hirsch Robert Hirsch

    I’ve been a repeat customer of Bob’s since Hawthorne’s time in Bellevue. I will miss his quirky and understated humor that could sometimes mask his underlying honesty and integrity. My condolences to his family and Hawthorne staff. As noted in another post he was truly “a good guy”.

  17. Curt Yamamoto Curt Yamamoto

    Very sorry and sad to learn of Bob's passing. I met Bob when Hawthorne was in Portland in the late 70's. I just saw him in December and can't believe he's now gone. A great guy who will be truly missed.

  18. Andrew Homa Andrew Homa

    My condolences to you Hawthorne folks. I met Robert in 96 when I firsts moved to Seattle. We even shared a blanket spot once at a Lyle Lovett concert at the Chateau St. Michele. I always appreciated him loaning me units to take home and audition that were worth thousands of dollars just on a hand shake. I am very sorry to hear of his passing. Glad to hear that the Hawthorne store is remaining.

  19. Patrick Hub Patrick Hub

    Oh no! I can't tell you how sorry I am to get this news. He was wonderfully astute and perceptive and had a great dry, ironic sense of humor. Even though I'd only show up maybe a couple times a year, he always remembered who I was and we'd make jokes about his business and mine. I and my friends trusted his guidance implicitly. Thank you, everyone at Hawthorne Stereo, for your diligence and humanity and dedication to the team effort you've always shown. I'm kind of shocked, I'd have appreciated one more conversation and the wry commentary he provided.

  20. Mark Johnson Mark Johnson

    So sad to see this news. Robert (and everyone at Hawthorne) has always been so good to me. My condolences to his friends and family.

  21. Robert Samuelson Robert Samuelson

    Saddened to hear about Bob. I always looked forward to some clever repartee with him - his sharp, dry wit, a unique blend of sarcasm and cynicism. He showed me a Naim Nait in 1995, and from then on my church has become Hawthorne.

  22. nancy weiner nancy weiner

    wow very sorry to hear about this:( i had know bob thru many of the companies i have worked with over the last bunch of years, and we always has the best phone chats! RIP Bob! on behalf of all (at my current company) at fidelis distribution - harbeth , our sincere condolences.

  23. Brad Liljequist Brad Liljequist

    Very very sorry to hear this. Best wishes to everyone at Hawthorne, as well as his family - I'm sure this is difficult. I have many great memories of Robert over the years; truly a hifi sage who called it like he saw it. Hoping the best for the Hawthorne crew during the transition.

  24. Quan Ton Quan Ton

    How fortunate we all have been over the decades to have such a nice place here in the PNW owned by such a sweet human! People and Things all come to pass, but the impact is everlasting. RIP Bob, thank you, and love all of your staff! Please carry on with his torch.

  25. Mark Wieman Mark Wieman

    So sorry to hear this terrible news. Bob sold me my first turntable in 1993, and I've been hooked ever since. I appreciate having his shop in our city -- with such a great team and wide selection. I hope it continues for many years to come.

  26. Mark Allen Mark Allen

    I'm so very very sorry to hear this. My condolences to his family and Hawthorne staff. He was one of a kind. I will also miss his quick quick wit.

  27. Robert Lyons Robert Lyons

    S0 very sad to hear this news. Bob was a stand up human being and I not only bought some wonderful gear from him, exchanged stories and thoughts but purchase a 1975 Alfa Romeo sedan from Bob. I kept it about 2.5 years and when I was leaving Seattle for Berlin he bought it back from me.....WOW!
    He will be sorely missed by the community....my deepest condolences to his family and all of you at Hawthorne!

  28. alex alex

    Bob was always very helpful and knowledgeable about all his equipment. I have frequented the store over the years and his presence will be truly missed. I am truly saddened.

  29. John from Pearl Audio, Portland John from Pearl Audio, Portland

    Bob was a pretty nice guy. I spoke with him here and there over the years and always enjoyed his kind way and genuine love for what he did. We shared our love of several interesting components and musicians over the years. I can tell you amongst us Northwest Hifi dealers, Bob was known as 'a good guy' who was honest and decent to everyone. He will be greatly missed as one of our golden-age of Hifi people with historical knowledge and experiences to share. There are still people here in Portland who remember him fondly from his days owning Hawthorn Stereo on Hawthorne Blvd here in Portland.

  30. Patrick S Patrick S

    My condolences to the staff and his family. Hawthorne has been a fantastic shop, the best in Seattle. He is definitely leaving a legacy behind.

  31. Stuart Maclean Stuart Maclean

    Very sad news indeed. I first met Bob in '98 when I moved to Seattle, and always had a chat with him whenever I popped in to the store. He was always honest, charming and funny. RIP Bob.

  32. Keith Muir Keith Muir

    Such sad news. Bob was always helpful and fair in his dealings with me. He will be missed

    Goodbye RDLguy!

  33. Greg Kirkos Greg Kirkos

    So sad. Such a wonderful shop he created. I've been going for years, I'm a "regular" as it were, with countless trades and purchases, and EVERY time I saw Robert (always called him Robert - it seemed more fitting) he would say something witty with his sly sense of humor. We had a common background in our early days - he worked in Cambridge, MA when he was young.

    I JUST saw him on December 23rd - I came in for a consignment check, and bought a few things. So this news was especially shocking.

    My best to the staff, who I know will carry the torch forward - you guys are truly great.

    Thank you, Robert.

  34. Jason Olander Jason Olander

    Condolences to Bob's family and the whole Hawthorne family. Bob was truly a gem. His leadership of the shop, knowledge, expertise and customer service skills are the reasons so many of us are lifelong Hawthorne customers and fans. He will be missed!

  35. Jon Baker Jon Baker

    A true gentlemen. Funny, quick witted, affable, was willing and looked forward to giving industry colleagues an occasional well deserved “ribbing” and could also take “ribbing” in return. The industry will miss Bob….our sympathies to Bob’s family at home and in the store, as well as his friends.

  36. Tom Pfaendler Tom Pfaendler

    This is very sad news. I worked with Bob From 1976 to 1980, first at the original Hawthorne Blvd. store in Portland and then helped to open the Canyon Road store in Beaverton. He was willing to give an 18-year-old kid from southern Oregon a dream job in the big city where I could get my hands on all the best audio gear and get paid for it! I have many memories of those years working for Bob. He was a terrific guy.

  37. Danl Harrington Danl Harrington

    My condolences to Bob's family, friends and staff at Hawthorne.

    A wonderful business with many loyal customers and friends that have returned over the years. That says a lot about Bob who kept the place competitive over a period of time when so many small businesses were swallowed up by the national conglomerate companies.

    I hope the Hawthorne tradition of 'a pretty nice place' is around for anther 50 years to celebrate Bob's memory.

  38. Tom English Tom English

    I’m sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. Bob sold me my first “real” HiFi in 1998, and I’ve been a loyal customer ever since. I hope Dominic, Matthew and the other wonderful folks who made Hawthorne Stereo “a pretty nice place” will be able to carry Bob’s legacy into the future.

  39. Peter Storey Peter Storey

    Bob and his business is just the type of place I truly cherished. He knew his gear, and he was faithful to only carrying the better choices. Just a polite fellow being a true friend to the audiophile community.

  40. Charlie Pickrel Charlie Pickrel

    Bob was an extraordinary man, whose love for music, hifi and people guided him to start, nurture and sustain - for his entire life - a successful business which served the community and his employees with honesty, fairness and quality. That is surely a life well lived. While we all now miss him dearly, I expect his legacy, Hawthorne Stereo and the fine people who work there, will continue long into the future. My condolences to his widely extended family.

  41. Tom Hall Tom Hall

    Safe journey Bob. The northwest audio world has lost an icon. My condolences to his family, friends and staff.

  42. Roy Hall Roy Hall

    How sad, Bob was great to do business with. I too have known him since his Portland days. He was always fun to talk to and like myself, he had a dark sense of humor.
    He introduced me to Leland Leard who was with me for over 20 years. For that introduction i am forever grateful. Bob, Rest In Peace

  43. Rob Robertson Rob Robertson

    R.I.P. Bob. He helped teach me how to listen, what mattered most and not to ask stupid, obvious questions!

  44. Robert Johns Robert Johns

    Tragic, simply tragic. Robert is THE reason in became involved in audio in the first place. I met him when he had his shop in Bellevue. I stopped in one day and I had no idea what I was looking at or doing. He spent hours with me and never once in all that time did he make me feel silly or ignorant. It was because of Bob's rather dry wit and all that is was more than just an audio store. No one in Seattle will ever compare. I am so sorry for the family. My condolences. We all lost a great friend....

  45. Barry Shaw Barry Shaw

    Wow... truly dreadful news. Condolences to Bob's family and friends. Hawthorne/Bob have been my primary hi-fi supplier since '96. He was always a straight-shooter. Will miss seeing Bob tucked away in the back corner at his desk, always ready with a sardonic and witty comment - or great advice. A major loss to Seattle's music/hi-fi fanatics. Rest in peace, Bob.

  46. Alex Wallace Alex Wallace

    Bob's store has had such a profound impact on my life, and my music. This is very sad news. Hawthorn Stereo has always been one of my favorite places ever since I was a freshman in college.

  47. John Hicks John Hicks

    This is so sad. I lived in Seattle from 89 to 98, and lived down the street from Hawthorne ( on Roosevelt) and Bob is the reason I ended up with the stereo of my dreams at the time. He was infinitely patient, insightful, and funny,.. and was always interesting to talk shop with. RIP Bob- you will be missed.

  48. Kristopher kp Peterson Kristopher kp Peterson

    Bob will be missed by all who were fortunate to know him. A straight forward guy, quick to offer help and a smile. A nice shop that was known for being able to buy / sell lots of classic hi-fi gear. My last visit to Bob prior to moving, he ran out on to Roosevelt and helped me unload a car full of gear. RIP Bob

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