The traffic on I Street was busy as usual, and the restaurant looked like the type you would find in some small town anywhere.

Customers and help all knew each other.

People were carrying boxes through the lobby of the New Medical Building, maybe wondering where they were going to find another menu like the one at the Professional Coffee Shop.

Smothered pork chops, $2.40, liver with onions or bacon, $2.40, all with two vegetables, bread and butter.

And the homemade pies and cakes, a la mode if you like.

When Louis Constantinou locks the door of the Professional Coffee Shop at 1726 I Street NW this afternoon it will be forever.

Constantinou sat on a stool, his arms resting on the marble-patterned formica counter top, his hands moving nervously as he worried about his future and that of 17 employes.

"I have been here for 32 years and have owned the place for the past 18," said the 66-year-old native of Cyprus.

"I lost the lease, I have been looking for a new place, but I don't have any money," he said.

"We were told to be cleaned out by Sunday night, the man didn't give me time to sell the equipment," he said, sweeping an arm toward his kitchen.

The New Medical Building, the first in Washington to have central airconditioning, will be demolished soon, forcing the closing of the restaurant that has been on the premises for 75 years.

Constantinou, who came to America in 1930 said, "It was during the starvation period when I landed in New York and got a job washing dishes 12 hours a day for $9 a week."

During World War II he worked in a shipyard in Baltimore, moving to Washington in 1947 to take a job as a counterman in the Professional Coffee Shop.

Caroline Kerstetter, a dental hygienist in the building, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, came into the restaurant for a ham and egg sandwich to go and gave the waitresses change purses as going-away gifts.

"The place is crazy upstairs," she said, "we all have to be out of the building by tonight.

"They are going to close it up, drop the rat pellets and wait for the wreckers.

"I don't know what we'll do without this restaurant. On cold winter days the home-made chicken soup was the best around," Kerstetter said.

"Doc Sullivan, the dentist I work for, wanted to take the staff to lunch in some fancy restaurant, but we all chose to come here because the food is so good."

In the back of the kitchen, Beatrice Bankhead Wilson was slicing bananas into creamy looking pies.

"I have been here 14 years, I come in every morning at 5:30, bake the danish pastry for the breakfast crowd, and then I start in on the pies. And I leave about 2 in the afternoon," she said.

Wilson bakes 50 pies a day, except during Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons when she bakes 100 to 200 daily. "I never bake at home," she said.

Marcille Layne, a waitress at the restaurant for 37 years, had no plans for the future and said, "Maybe I won't do anything, I'll just wait and see if I don't go stir crazy around the house."

Looking at her new change purse, a passing customer said, "That's nice, did they put anything in it?"

Without looking up, Marcille said, "Why should they? The thought of the gift was nice enough. "It's really a shame we're closing, the food is so good, real home cooking.

"Fresh roasted turkey every day and baked ham, he puts ham hocks or fat back in the fresh vegetables and the bean soup has chunks of ham."

The list of VIP customers Marcille had waited on was long, and a few of the standouts include Ted Kennedy, Clark Clifford and Shirley Temple Black.

"Dean Acheson used to come here, Vince Lombardi dropped in quite often, and Sam Rayburn used to sit right up at the counter."

Another waitress, Jeanette Yee, came to work in 1960. Pointing across I Street she said, "When I came here, there were all row houses along the street."

Jeanette had a job offer nearby but wasn't sure about taking it.

In the kitchen, chef Leroy Hudson, the man responsible for the menu, was scrubbing out a pot in the sink.

"I have been here for 27 years," he smiled, shrugging his shoulders. "I don't know what I'm going to do. Maybe I'll go to Honolulu and dance with some of those hula girls. But maybe I'm too old for that."

A publisher from next door came in to ask the cashier what brand of wine Constantinou liked.

"He drinks beer," she said, "but maybe he would like a bottle of Ouzo."

Before leaving, he turned to say, "It might have been unfair to my wife, but I have been having breakfast here for 25 years.

The food is good, and the prices reasonable.

"We're certainly going to miss this place."

Halfway through the 12-hour day, walking swifty to the kitchen, working the carryout counter, moving to answer the phone, Constantinou paused at the cash register near the door.

"When I came here 32 years ago," he said, "real ham and eggs, pan-fried potatoes and toast cost 60 cents. Today customers pay $2.70, and the quality is the same."

Parting customers shook his hand saying, "Good luck to you wherever you go."

Louis' answer was the same to each of them: "Just keep an eye out for the Professional Coffee Shop, maybe someday it will be in another place."