The Safeway store at 1441 P St. NW, a fixture in the Logan Circle community for 17 years, will close at the end of the Saturday shopping day.

Like several other Safeways that have closed in recent years, the store will be replaced almost immediately by an independently-owned grocery with a similar selection of foods.

The P Street Safeway is the latest of 41 stores that Safeway, the nation's largest food store chain, has closed in the District of Columbia since 1968, leaving the city with 34 of its stores.

Han Yang Cho, 47, a former lieutenant-colonel in the Korean Marine Corps and for three years the assistant naval attache at the Korean Embassy here, who now has become an independent grocer, opens his Metro Supermarket on the site of the P Street Safeway on Thursday.

Yesterday, Han who with two nephews also operates two other District grocery stores, was at the Safeway, checking over last-minute transition details with Safeway officials.

Noontime shoppers wheeled their carts into the checkout lanes, read the large red and white sign notifying them of the closing and never realized that their new neighborhood grocer stood nearby conversing alternatively in English and Korean.

Saturday also marks the last operating day for the Safeway store at 4141 Duke St., in Alexandria. The store, located near the Shirley Duke shopping center, serves both single-family homeowners and tenants of two low and moderate-income apartment complexes nearby.

Kathleen Gurman, a regular customer at the P Street Safeway, complained bitterly about the closing yesterday.

"It's just an example of Safeway ripping off poor people," she said.

The store is located in a poor neighborhood. Since many customers have no cars it will be inconvenient for them to go to the next nearest Safeway, at 1701 Corcoran St. NW, she said.

"They will be forced to shop the store that's nearer and they will be forced to pay higher prices," she said, adding that she believes independent grocery stores, like Han's charge higher prics than do chain stores.

"It's an attempt to push poor people out of this neighborhood," she said, noting that the store is about two blocks from Logan Circle where middle-class whites now are replacing low-income black families.

Han vigorously denied that his store would have high prices. "We will be very competitive with Safeway and Giant. Customers will find some prices the same, some higher and some lower," he said yesterday.

He said he believes that his new store will survive where Safeway could not because he will have only 12 employees compared to the 25 at Safeway. Since his employees have no union, the average wage will be $3 an hour instead of the Safeway average of $7.50 an hour, he said.

If this cost saving is combined with good sales to permit a steady resupply of fresh fruits and meats, the store will survive, Han said. The store will be supplied by Richfood, Inc., of Richmond, a wholesaler for independent grocers.

"When I came to the United States it was hard to find a small business," Han said explaining how he got into the grocery business. "If I find a good location we can survive. We can work long hours, 10 to 15 hours (per day) with less pay and on Saturdays and Sundays," he said.

His other stores are located at 2130 P St. NW and 1864 Columbia Rd. NW.

Safeway is closing its store because "over the years it has been an unprofitable operation," said Ernest G. Moore, head of the chain's local public relations office.

This store, like the one in Alexandria and another near Connecticut and Nebraska Avenues NW that closed last month, all have the same problem: they are too small for their sales to cover the cost of operating the stores, Moore said.