Preparing for a smooth transition, Hechinger Co. announced yesterday that John W. Hechinger Jr. will take over next month as president, a post his father has held for 28 years.

John W. Hechinger Jr., 35, also will assume the new position of chief operating officer to oversee all day-to-day operations of the 53-store do-it-yourself chain that was founded 75 years ago by his grandfather, Sidney L. Hechinger.

John Hechinger Sr. will join his brother-in-law, Richard England, as cochairman of the board, and both men, aged 65, will continue to be actively involved in the company, sharing the responsibilities of chief executive officer. By giving oversight of the daily operations to his son, John Hechinger Sr. will be able to spend more time planning the company's long-term strategy at a time when the firm is trying to enter new markets and expand from a regional firm into a nationwide chain.

"Although we have no thoughts of retirement, this seems to be a good time to bring in younger talents and allow them to be with the company at a time when we're available to accomplish the transition," John Hechinger Sr. said yesterday. "This will bring certainty to the future to the entire inner organization and the financial community."

John W. Hechinger Jr. was a logical choice considering "he is a major stockholder representing the founding family," his father said. Even more significant, he added, the younger Hechinger has had 14 years of experience in the company, earning high marks in the variety of roles he has held, including his most recent job as vice president for corporate development, where he has been responsible for real estate, construction and market research.

Together, the Hechinger and England families hold about 55 percent of the company's voting stock.

John Hechinger Sr. said that the family has "a major stake in the success of the company. Consequently, we are very focused on making sure the company is run properly for all shareholders."

John W. Hechinger Jr. will assume his new post Feb. 2, the beginning of the company's fiscal year. "I do not foresee any significant management changes as a result of my own promotion," he said.

John W. Hechinger Jr. is one of four Hechinger and England children now working at the company. S. Ross Hechinger, 34, is vice president for distribution; Joan S. England, 36, is vice president for marketing, and Rick England, 31, is a buyer-in-training.