Hechinger Company yesterday declared its first dividends - 4 percent in stock and 3 cents per share in cash.

Dividends long had been sought by investors in the highly successful Washington home improvement center chain, which has traditionally poured all its profits back into expansion.

The decision to pay dividends - announced on the eve of Hechinger's annual meeting - will make the stock more attractive to all investors. It is expected to increase stock holdings by institutions, many of which do not invest in companies that do not pay dividends.

"When we went public in 1972, we clearly stated that we intended to plow back our earnings into the business so that we could expand Hechinger Company on a sound financial basis," the company said in a statement issued by John W. Hechinger, president, and Richard England, chairman.

The company had 10 stores when the public stock offering was made and now has 19, with sales and earnings increasing at the rate of 20 percent per year.

"We have done what we set out to do in 1972. We recognize the time has now come to begin to declare dividends," said Hechinger and England.

The two top executives said their families, which own a majority interest in the company, will waive their cash dividend but will accept the stock payout.