The sign was posted on Oct. 7: "Due to chronic shoplifting, no more than five students at one time will be allowed in the store between noon and 1:30 p.m. Thank you. The Management."
For six weeks that sign remained on the door of the Dynamic Discounts drugstore, located on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albermarle Street NW. During that time, many students from Woodrow Wilson High School and a few from Sidwell Friends and St. lbans Schools waited their turn in line, rain or shine, to get into the store.
Tuesday, with student resentment increasing rapidly, the sign came down.
It was removed after J. A. Pollard, vice president in charge of advertising and public relations for Peoples Drug Stores, which operates Dynamic Discounts, ordered store manager Bob Rogers to remove it. The order came after Rogers had called Pollard to ask permission to talk to a reporter about the situation.
"I don't agree with you, but you sign my paycheck," Rogers told Pollard on the phone. "I know I have at least one employee who will be afraid to come to work. But it's your store."
Pollard and Peoples division vice president Richard Schuman said later they had no knowledge of the restriction as students or the sign until Rogers called on Tuesday.
Although Roger's decision to limit the number of students in his store may be a more drastic action than that taken by other stores, it is not unique.
Over the years many stores located near junior and senior high schools have taken measures to restrict the activities of students in the stores during lunch hours and immediately after school.
Many supermarkets and drugstores have closed all but one door to deter shoplifters by restricting their exits from the store and to keep young people from entering and running around unhindered.
Other stores have requested that students enter their store during school hours only when accompanied by an adult.
Recently the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade has asked any store owner with a problem to contact it and then as worked with the store and local police on ways to alleviate the problem.
Leonard Kolodny, retail manager for the Board of Trade, said the action taken by Dynamic Discounts is the first of its kind, that he knows of, in this area.
The sign at Dynamic Discounts came down shortly after 1:30 p.m. Tuesday with no students present. Earlier, however, many students had voiced anger of the restrictions.
"The people don't steal," insisted Ricardo Wooten, a freshman at Wilson. "We come in here because the prices are low. Why would we steal stuff that we come in to get, because we can buy it cheap?"
Roger says some students have stolen and do steal. "Before I put the sign up we were losing about $100 a day," he said. "Now it's been cut in half, somettimes more. The police suggested the idea to me and it's worked pretty well, I think.
"Sure we've had problems," he continued. "I still have to call the police about four times a week. I've had several near fights. The guy who took over for me when I was on vacation was in a fight."
"I've tried not to make it a racial thing (Wilson's enrollment is about two-third black) but I guess to a certain degree it's become that. I'm a white manager keeping them out and there's bound to be animosity. I've tried to be equally unfair, if you want to put it that way, to everyone."
Pollard said yesterday that the Peoples management had been unaware of the sign before Rogers' call. Rogers said he had received approval from the district supervisor to go ahead with the plan. Pollard concurred but both refused to reveal the name of that supervisor.
"This has been brought to our attention today and we will turn it over to our security department for investigation," Pollard said.
Pollard said the ultimate decision to take the sign down had been made by Schuman.
"We don't want to exclude anyone from coming into any of our stores," Schuman said. "This was obviously a defensive move made by the store manager and it was totally out of content (sic). I'm amazed by it and the fact that we (the company) are the last ones to know about it."
Dynamic Discounts in a pilot store for a proposed new division of peoples. It replaced the Peoples at the Wisconsin-Albermarle location last June with Rogers as manager.
"I guess I look like hell with the company right now," Rogers admitted yesterday. "But now maybe something will get done. This should be discussed at a higher level.
"I'm not trained to try and apprehend a shoplifter and find myself surrounded by six kids. They aren't small either."
One student, admitted that if the policy continued, violence was a possiblity. "I'm ready to fight right now," he said. "It's gonna get colder and colder and we'll be standing out there waiting. That's not right."
Other merchants in the area said they sympathized with Rogers' situation. "He's got a problem," said a spokesman at the Sears store across the street. "He has three or four people trying to control 30 or 40 kids at once. That's impossible."