It was noon yesterday before the sun came out and business heated up along H Street NE.

"I got a special on $3 cigarette lighters," a vendor at Seventh and H said to a young woman passing. She shook her head. "I got musk oils and perfumes!" he yelled to her back.

It would have been a regular Saturday on the corridor, except there were no grocery shoppers. A steady flow of women walked into Fashion Warehouse, where signs touted a "$10 department." Small crowds waited at each of the bus stops at Eighth and H streets. But Mega Foods, the grocery store at 665 H St., was dark, its normally busy parking lot empty; the doors that hiss and open automatically were quiet and still. There were no grocery carts, no shoppers.

Mega, the largest black-owned supermarket in the District, closed Friday after foreclosure was threatened. The owners said the store was undercapitalized from the day it opened, two years ago. The late occupation of two neighboring city-owned office buildings and picketing by a local union made matters worse. In March, the company filed for protection from creditors under bankruptcy laws. The owners hope to obtain financing and reopen, but they need to raise at least $1.5 million.

"It's a big loss to the community, especially to people who don't have transportation," Ruth Eubanks said of the store's closing, as she walked along the outside of the H Street Connection shopping center.

"I did my main shopping there every two weeks. If I ran out of bread or milk, I could just run over," said Eubanks, who lives at Sixth and L streets NE. "There would be a lot of people in there who have lived here 30 to 40 years -- senior citizens."

H Street, once one of the city's busiest shopping districts, has been struggling to come back since dozens of buildings and businesses were destroyed by the 1968 riots. In more recent years, drug trafficking and street crime plagued the area.

In 1987, a new mall, H Street Connection, opened between Eighth and Ninth streets. It features a Dart Drug store, carryouts, clothing stores and a police substation. Mega Foods was an anchor for another block of the new construction between Sixth and Seventh streets.

"Their closing is going to have a terrible effect on H Street," said Delores Simpson, a clerk behind the counter at Springer Uniforms and Lingerie. "I ate lunch there every day. They had a hot foods and a deli section and salad bar. Everything was so delicious.

"I would go there in the morning for cinnamon rolls. They were homemade. You could see them making them," said Simpson, who worked on H Street during the 1960s too. "I remember when there was a Morton's at 645, where there's a government building now. There was a McBride's across the street -- and people everywhere."

Her co-worker, Daphne Price, was still shocked about the store's closing. "I can't believe it," she said from behind the counter. "There's no place else to eat that has fresh food." The closest grocery store is at Hechinger Mall, nine blocks east.

A former H Street Safeway is now a Peoples Drugs. Some faithful shoppers remember the old days, when "it was like a downtown shopping strip," as one woman said.

Hoping to help boost a renewal, Shellie White shops in the area regularly to support businesses in which some of her friends invested.

"Me and two of my elderly neighbors would come every Wednesday to shop at Mega Foods," said White, who lives in the 1400 block of Sommerset Place NW. "We got good buys on fruit and canned vegetables.

"There's a group of about 13 of us in my neighborhood who try to support black-owned businesses," she said. "To revitalize this area we have to shop here. We tried to spread the word about Mega."

William McKiney Council, who said he lived "in Northwest on the Gold Coast," was on one of his regular visits to the area Saturday. "I used to go to Mega Foods, to patronize a black-owned business," he said.

"H Street has not been built up, as promised," he said. "The residential community has remained stable . . . but people are going elsewhere to shop. {The city} puts simple development over here, rather than investing real money. They build enough to keep the community satisfied. I think the community deserves a little better."