The Metropolist

Metropolist: Remembering Valadi's Fudge and Variety Records

By The Metropolist
Friday, July 17, 2009

Our alphabetical review of places that exist only in our memory has reached the letter V.


After World War II, my mother and I would ride the streetcar into downtown and walk up to M Street and the Gem Theater, where my grandfather was the projectionist. My mother would deposit me with him while she went shopping. I spent the time watching movies and developed my love of stars like Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Edward G. Robinson, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Bob Steele.

My mother would pick me up when she finished, and we'd walk back down Seventh Street and then over to Ninth, where she would buy the world's best fudge at Valadi's.

Maple walnut for me, chocolate walnut for her. Each would have a quarter-pound to munch on during our return trip to Maryland. The back seat of the streetcar was our own particular bit of heaven. Bags of things laid along the bench seat while we talked and shared our Valadi's treats.

Years later, after Valadi's had closed its doors and that lovely soda counter was dismantled, Hecht's bought the rights to Valadi's fudge. I drove all the way to its Wheaton store to buy my favorite fudge. Somehow, though, it didn't quite seem as good as it had all those years ago.

Was it because that I was older or because different cooks put their own spin on a recipe? Whatever the reason, Valadi's wonderful maple walnut fudge remains a delightful memory never to be savored again.

-- Patricia Magruder, Mount Rainier

Variety Records

Far and away the best place for a college kid to work in the 1970s was a record store. And none beat the seven stores in Maryland and Virginia that made up Wheaton-based Variety Records before it went bankrupt. (During bankruptcy, it lacked a variety of records and everything else!)

I worked at the Tysons Corner store, where only the pink, yellow and orange walls were more colorful than the employees and customers, many of whom could easily have just stepped out of a Springsteen song. I was exposed to great music that I would have heard nowhere else and got to see some great concerts as a perk at such long-gone venues as Georgetown's Cellar Door. Certainly the high point of my time at Variety Records was the day the Village People performed during an in-store appearance and the size of the crowd threatened to close the mall and created a traffic jam on Route 7 and the Beltway.

-- Larry Houck, McLean

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