Unpaid but Displayed

You may be wondering why Hechinger Co. is closing stores and reneging on its promise to give thousands of employees severance packages and back wages.

Here's one explanation: "We did all this for you, our customers."

In a full-page advertisement that ran July 4 in The Washington Post, the ailing home improvement retailer said management had to make hard decisions.

"As with many things in life, you often have to do just that in order to move forward," the ad said.

Hechinger employees from Washington to Ohio, however, are infuriated with the company's treatment. The Largo-based company had offered enticements to employees at 34 stores that the chain was closing. In return, the workers promised to work through the liquidation sales.

Late last month the retailer said it wouldn't be paying up any time soon. A bankruptcy court judge wouldn't allow the payments, Hechinger said.

But apparently the cost of full-page retail advertisements in the A-section of The Post did not deter Hechinger. The ads cost about $44,000, although major buyers such as Hechinger often receive discounts based on their frequency of advertising.

-- Stephanie Stoughton

Quick Hit

Sometimes investor confusion about a stock simply comes down to the name. That's why U.S. Food Service, the Columbia-based food service distributor, will change its ticker symbol June 19 on the New York Stock Exchange. On that day, the company's symbol will change to USF from UFS.

DID YOU HEAR? . . .

"It looks like a Teletubby."

-- Lawrence Rassin, chief executive of Adwheels, describing its latest venture: hiring "skatertisers" on in-line skates to go around wearing a flat-panel computer screen displaying a customer's World Wide Web site.

Grape States

So maybe some of the best-tasting wines are produced in Northern California. That isn't stopping vintners from opening up wineries in other states throughout the country. The American Vintners Association in the District said the number of U.S. wineries grew 29 percent, to 2,081, from 1995 to 1999. Among the states with the strongest growth in wineries were Washington, to 125 from 93; Colorado, to 26 from 10; and Virginia, to 54 from 44.

In Maryland, however, the number of wineries declined, to 12 from 14.

There are 48 states that produce wines -- six more than a decade ago. The Vintners Association said the growth in wineries has been helped in part by sources of funding -- 16 wineries are publicly traded. Wineries also have been able to get assistance from state-supported programs that offer guidance in research, promotion and some limited small-business and agricultural tax incentives.

-- Judith Evans

Correction: A story in last week's Washington Business incorrectly reported that Lucent Technologies was a client of Vienna-based advertising agency KSK Communications Ltd. The company represents Lucent Technologies' Government and Solutions subsidiary.