A veteran Washington area retailer that had abandoned the city's downtown for the suburbs plans to come back to town this year.

Jelleff's is negotiating for a store in lower Connecticut Avenue, one of four new stores planned in the next two years, president Henry Hershey said yesterday.

The president also said major renovation of the Jelleff's store on Upper Connecticut Avenue is also planned for this year.

The women's chain, which Hershey describes as "a good traditional missy operation" is making a series of changes, the president said.

It's large store across from Seven Corners shopping center closed Dec. 26, and a new, smaller store, preferably in the Seven Corners complex or the nearby Skyline Plaza is now being sought, he said.

The 40,000 square foot store was too big for the modernized Jelleff's operations, which will be patterrend after a 15,000 square foot store in the Crystal City complex, he explained.

The free-standing store was also out of step with today's shopping-center oriented customer, he added.

A major renovation of the Silver Spring store is planned this year, in anticipation of the opening of the nearby Metro stop.

He said the store had been "holding on fairly well" despite deterioration of the shopping area and now will be in a good position to bounce back.

Besides the renovation, two more stores are planned in 1978 and two more in 1979. Likely markets are Gaitherburg and the northern Virginia areas.

Following the prototype of the Crystal City store, which Hershey said is exceeding expectations, Jelleff's will seek to rebuild its position in a market becoming increasingly crowded with look-alike stores.