Leo Fender’s Radio Repair Shop

Jul 28, 2023

I went to Fullerton today to go to a couple of vintage clothing shops, antique malls, and bookstores, and stumbled across this: the original location of Leo Fender’s radio repair shop, where the very first Fender musical instruments were made in the 1940s!

For a very long time, nobody seemed to know where his original shop was located because the address he used was no longer a valid address. Not only had the name of the street been changed from Spadra Road to Harbor Boulevard, but they also renumbered everything when they did the name change. So I always knew it was along this little stretch of road, but I never knew exactly where, until today. It’s nice that they’ve placed a historical marker.

For those of you not familiar with the origins of the Fender company, Leo ran a radio repair shop out of this building, and also rented out a PA system for local dances and civic events. At these live music events, he ran into musicians who were amplifying their guitars and steel guitars. During World War II, he experimented with making electric guitars and amplifiers, and right after the war ended, he began selling them under the K&F (Kauffman and Fender) name. All these instruments were made in the back room of this radio shop.

Beginning in 1946, the Fender name debuted, and for two years all the steel guitars and amplifiers bearing the Fender name were also made in the back room of this shop. Around 1949, with his business booming, he moved the operation into a couple of Quonset hut buildings a few blocks away, which are no longer standing. This tiny radio shop, however, was where it all began.