The worst time for Posin's kosher bakery and delicatessen came with the 1968 riots triggered by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The city erupted just before Passover. White customers who had moved to the suburbs were afraid to come into town. A black driver for Posin's balked at delivering a platter of food to lower Georgia Avenue.

"I got slaughtered," said owner Max Posin, 69. "I was loaded with Passover merchandise. I gave a lot of it away, cakes and stuff, to the Hebrew Home. The city was closed down for a week. That was a real low point."

But while the riots accelerated the flight of many white merchants to the suburbs and Posin's store windows were smashed, he stayed put.

In time, his business bounced back. Longtime white customers returned, and Posin's picked up new customers from the racially changed neighborhood. Today, Posin's continues at the same site it has occupied for 40 years, 5756 Georgia Ave. NW, next to a car wash in the block below Missouri Avenue.

"See, we try to keep this like a small store," said Posin, whose father began the business in Foggy Bottom in 1918.

"You walk into a chain store, you walk into a wilderness, it's so big. These people who come in, blacks and whites, they come over and talk to me. It's a feeling you have here . . . . "

With Randy Posin, 40, working alongside his dad, the store is in its third generation. Founder Abraham Posin, a Russian immigrant, moved the business from Foggy Bottom to Ninth and R streets NW to Fourth Street and Rhode Island Avenue NE.

Then, he opened a kosher deli in the old Center Market on Pennsylvania Avenue. After the market was razed in 1931, Posin moved his deli into the arcade at 14th Street and Park Road NW, where he also sold kosher meats.

He had always wanted a bakery as well. Finally, he realized his dream when Posin's moved to its present location in April 1947.

The bakery still draws them. "They have the best pastries," said Abrilla Mackey of Silver Spring, stopping by on the way to her hairdresser's job on Capitol Hill.

"The people here are nice and cooperative and the atmosphere is great. They have things Giant and Safeway don't have."

And Harry Spiwak, 79, a customer from the 14th Street arcade days who now lives in Silver Spring, declared, unequivocally, "I come in here every week because they've got the best baked goods in the city."

"You can't do without me, either, can you?" said Dorothy Lewis, a cashier for 10 years.

"And I can't do without Dorothy," Spiwak said.

"It can be hectic," Lewis said. "The bosses are fine. Sometimes they make you angry, but I like them because I can tell them when I'm angry, too."

Max Posin, his speech sprinkled with colorful Yiddish words, is there every weekday morning at 6. The store is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Many of his employes have been there a long time. and others who had their first jobs at Posin's have gone on to make their mark elsewhere.

"I can go through half a dozen millionaires who had their first job here as kids," said Max, citing, for example, real estate developer Alan I. Kay, who was a bag boy in the store.

"They're doctors, lawyers, accountants. They came here as bag boys, deli boys, and learned how to work."

Max Posin graduated from Central High School in 1937 and saw World War II service flying submarine patrols over the Atlantic.

He met his wife Tillie in 1941 at a synagogue in her home town of Columbia, S.C. They have four grown children, of whom only Randy is in the family business.

With many other Jewish Washingtonians, Posin migrated uptown and eventually to the suburbs. He moved first to a house in Langley Park, and then to Bethesda in 1961.

His father lived until 1958. For several years afterward, Posin ran the business with his brother Hyman, who died three years ago.

Posin's made a brief foray into the suburbs in late 1950s, adding a second store in Hyattsville. But there were financial problems, and creditors foreclosed. The Posins bought back the city store at a bankruptcy sale.

As the neighborhood around it shifted, Posin made some modest concessions to the changing clientele, baking more biscuits and dropping bialys, a distinctly Jewish style of baked goods. But Posin hasn't changed the basics. In fact, he is spending thousands this year on separate new stainless steel bowls in the bakery to keep up its kosher rating with local rabbis.

The continuity has paid off in sometimes surprising ways. "I was at the New York World's Fair when somebody asked if I worked in a deli in Washington," said Randy Posin. "He said we made the best pickles he'd ever had."

Posin's also has attracted its share of celebrities, among them Arnold (Red) Auerbach, the Boston Celtics president who lives in Washington, and television news show host Martin Agronsky. Los Angeles Laker star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar "used to take a cab down here for a chicken salad sandwich" when he lived in the Hanafi Muslim house on upper 16th Street, Randy Posin said.

Posin's prepared platters for Golda Meir and Menachem Begin when they came to Washington. And last Christmas, Posin's baked 2,000 cookies for the Reagan White House. "Our driver almost got arrested because of confusion over his security clearance," Randy Posin said.

Catering has become an increasingly large part of the business. Most orders come from Rockville, Potomac, Silver Spring and Bethesda, but Posin's recently made a delivery to Fredericksburg, Va., for celebration of a ritual circumcision.

Over the last four decades, the number of employes has stayed around 40 to 45, but, like the customers, most are now black. When Posin's moved into its then new, 10,000-square-foot building on Georgia Avenue in 1947, Max Posin recalled, "We hired black girls behind the bakery counter and {some white} customers wouldn't buy there because they didn't want to be served by blacks. They'd have them as maids but not as clerks, which was ridiculous."

Posin does not make a big deal about it, but he is a man of charity and conviction. He has a box full of plaques he has yet to display. They date back to 1968 and testify to his generosity to a variety of causes.

He happily handed over three dozen danish the other day to Nathan Shapiro, 79, a resident of the Homecrest retirement home in Silver Spring for a B'nai Brith lodge meeting. "Thank you very much. I wish you a Happy New Year," Shapiro said, on the eve of the Jewish High Holy Days.

"Just in case you wanted to know, you just donated two decorated cakes to the Hadassah at B'nai Shalom," office manager Ed Pelsinsky informed Posin, who nodded. Pelsinsky also told Posin that he had just given $25 from the store to a longtime employe who donated a kidney to his daughter.

Posin refuses to carry Pepsi-Cola because, he said, "You can't buy them in Israel. I got my own little boycotts. I don't put them out of business, but . . . . "

He also declines to buy merchandise below cost, because it might be stolen -- like the lox he was offered for $3 a pound less than the normal wholesale price.

"I said, was it stolen merchandise? I don't want to touch it. Who needs it? If I bought 100 pounds of lox and saved $300 and, God forbid, somebody found out, I could lose my business . . . . A man comes in here one time and says, 'I got something you can use.' Forty-four dollars worth of stamps for $30. I need that like a hole in the head."

He added, "I work on the theory if you're gonna steal for me, you're gonna steal from me . . . . "

He does business from a small, raised, glass-enclosed office overlooking the store. A woman climbed the steps the other day to ask for the man "who gave me fish yesterday. He was very good. I don't see him . . . . He's very nice and he knows his stuff. The others give me stuff, I throw it out."

"I don't blame you," Posin said. The man she wanted was off. Posin addressed another employe through a loudspeaker. "Kim, help this lady. She needs some nice fish."