Irving 'Buddy' Levy, 77, owned Capitol Drugs in Annapolis

July 28, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Buddy Levy's corner drug store in Annapolis wasn't where you went just to get a prescription filled or a bottle of cough syrup. He wouldn't have it that way.

Instead, his Capitol Drugs store was where you found a political debate and crossword puzzle seminars at one end of the soda fountain, war stories swapped at the other and an easy folksiness throughout.

And Irving "Buddy" Levy, who died July 20 of heart failure at Anne Arundel Medical Center at 77, was usually at the center of everything.

"He just loved being around people so much," said his wife, the former Esther Chaiken, who started the business with Mr. Levy in 1952. "It [the drug store] was his living, but he was a real people person who liked to talk and be around people."

The drug store, at West Street and Madison Place, attracted students (mostly from nearby colleges), aspiring politicians, naval officers, college instructors, journalists and watermen.

The store was open seven days a week, and Mr. Levy usually was there all seven. It was easy to tell when he was there from the moment you entered: Music from Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington or Billie Holiday wafted through the air.

"He loved jazz, and he did everything at the store except mix the sodas. He taught the kids how to do that," his wife said. "But he took his business very seriously. He took dispensing drugs very seriously."

A native of Annapolis, Mr. Levy was in the first graduating class of Annapolis High School in 1936. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Maryland Pharmacy School and was a pharmacist at the former Read's drug stores before serving in the Army from 1942 to 1944 during World War II.

Once discharged, he was a pharmacist for several Baltimore and Annapolis Read's stores before opening his store. He retired and sold the business in 1987.

"It was the always the kind of place you felt comfortable at," said Robert Wyckek of Annapolis. "Of course he wanted you to buy something at food counter, but sometimes you just went there and lingered, or bought a soda and took an hour to drink it."

During many of the soda counter discussions, Mr. Levy played devil's advocate to stir up debate, friends said. Because of the many politicians who frequented the store, he once hung a sign that read: "The Shadow Government Meets Here."

John Sarkissian, another frequent patron, said the lively conversation attracted all kinds of people and kept them coming back.

"He was constantly interrupting people. That was one of his outstanding characteristics," Mr. Sarkissian said. "Or sometimes we'd all be arguing something -- like how much the Earth weighed -- and a stranger would walk in and Buddy'd ask him how much it weighed. That was Buddy."

Gerald Bunker, a former professor at nearby St. John's College and longtime Capitol Drugs patron, said crowds gathered every Sunday to work the New York Times crossword puzzle -- and Mr. Levy always seemed to do better than everyone else.

"His advantage, of course, was that he got the New York Times magazine two days earlier" when the inserts were delivered to his store, Mr. Bunker said.

Services were Tuesday.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Alan Levy and Jim Levy; a sister, Sadie Snyder; and four grandchildren, all of Annapolis.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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