"The world is ushering in the Internet Century, and Washington is really at the epicenter of this change."

-- America Online Inc. CEO Steve Case, commenting on the news that 60 percent of adults in the Washington area are hooked up to the Internet, a higher percentage than anywhere else in the country.

Bikes: No Pressure

Last week, a bankruptcy judge gave Alexandria's Bikes USA the green light to begin liquidating its 21 stores. At the time, an executive told The Washington Post that a lender had pressured the ailing retailer to liquidate, even though Bikes USA was working diligently to get a buyer for some stores.

Now, it seems, everyone is making nice. The lender, Paragon Capital LLC, denied any pressure tactics. For its part, Paragon wants everyone to know that it is supportive and "had an excellent reputation with Bikes USA."

"As former retailers, we understand the challenges that companies like Bikes USA are facing and provide them with support they may not be able to obtain elsewhere," Paragon President Andrew Moser said in a statement.

Marc Willson, chief executive of Bikes USA, said in the same statement that three "interested parties" are trying to purchase blocks of stores and possibly the retailer's name. In the release from Paragon, he also praised the lender.

"Paragon has been extremely supportive," Willson said. "They have retail roots, so they understood the issues we were facing, and they were highly flexible and patient during some difficult times."

-- Stephanie Stoughton (stoughtons@washpost.com)

You Have to See It

Stanley Furniture Co. could be called the couch potato of furniture makers: It simply refuses to get up and sell stuff on the World Wide Web.

Chief executive Albert L. Prillaman told Dow Jones News Service last week that the Stanleytown, Va., company won't sell its Coastal Cottage bedroom sets and faux-French armoires online, despite just having launched its own Web site.

"The greatest advantage of the Internet is providing information and preselling" customers, he said at the International Home Furnishings Market in North Carolina. "Our entire focus is going to be, how do we drive the consumer into the store and have her presold?"

Industry estimates put online furniture sales at $100 million a year.

-- Terence O'Hara (oharat@washpost.com)

Pretty as an Annual Report

Style over substance is the message behind the 43rd Mead Annual Report Show, one of the more prestigious competitions of many in the realm of corporate annual reports.

Mead's competition is for looks alone, with judging based on graphic design, photography, illustration, typography, printing and paper specification. What the financial reports actually say is secondary.

The competition tomorrow will judge about 50 annual reports, which are on display at the Washington Design Center on D Street SW.

-- T.O.


From the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't department, this figure represents the net dollar value lost by ousted Rite Aid Corp. CEO Martin Grass on Grass's "in the money" options. On Feb. 26, with Rite Aid stock hovering near its all-time high, Grass's exercisable options were worth $83,233,750, according to the company's June 4 proxy statement. With the stock now trading in the $9 range, the value of those options has been wiped out, and they won't be worth anything until the stock goes above $28 a share. But don't cry for Martin. Since 1996, he has been paid more than $9 million in salary, bonus and long-term incentive payments. And, of course, that doesn't count his expected severance package after he was fired Oct. 18, which, we have little doubt, will be considerable.

-- T.O.

CORRECTIONS: In an item about leases at Trinity Centre in the Oct. 11 From the Ground Up column, the clients that two brokers represented were transposed. Linda Mallison of Transwestern/Carey Winston represented RDR Inc. Phillip Liebow of Jones Lang LaSalle represented Convergys Corp.

The location of Medical Advisory Systems Inc. was incorrect in the Oct. 18 Bytes column. The firm is in Owings, Md.