It was opening, or reopening day at Mega Foods in Northeast Washington. New owners Ronald Chun and Yong Yun, dressed in dark suits, greeted customers and hustled around, fixing a stalled cash register, searching for a special cut of meat.

"Are you the store manager?" a young girl with a yellow hair roller at the nape of her neck asked Chun. "Do you know where the cranberry sauce is?"

Chun, not quite sure, joined her in the hunt. A resolution with the people carrying picket signs outside the store, would not be as easy.

Seven protesters marched near the entrance to the store, at 665 H St. NE, trying to persuade people to not shop at Mega Foods. The picketers, led by Cora Brimfield, a grass-roots philanthropist, were upset that the store, once owned by blacks, is now owned by Korean Americans.

Yun and Chun knew there might be some form of protest of their ownership. They knew about past friction between some black residents in the District and Korean American business owners who are sometimes viewed by some as invaders who take more than they give. To avoid that labeling, Yun and Chun, who say they've worked in black communities for more than 20 years, met with community leaders, hired neighborhood residents, including former Mega Food employees, and plan neighborhood projects such as a food bank for the poor.

"As long as we are here we'll be community-minded," Yun said. "We recognize Mrs. Brimfield as a community leader. She does a great job feeding the homeless. We want her to give us an opportunity to introduce ourselves to the people too."

When Mega opened in 1988, it was the largest black-owned supermarket in the District and the first independent supermarket in Northeast in more than 20 years. But the original owners filed for bankruptcy and closed the store in July. Chun and Yun purchased it in October.

Yesterday, some people refused to come inside and shop, saying they were turning away in deference to Brimfield. More people, many of them elderly, walked into the store and left with filled shopping carts.

"It really doesn't matter to me who owns the store," said Athena Carter, as she surveyed the frozen food aisle. "A man talked to me about coming in here . . . . I told him, this store is the closest one to my house and I'm going in."

When Mega closed in July, it meant that some people had to travel nine blocks farther to shop at the grocery store at Hechinger Mall.

"I shopped at corner stores when they were closed and you know how expensive they are," Diane Lambright said. "When I saw the picketers, I felt bad about {the black owners losing the store} but I have to buy food somewhere."

Cora "Mother" Brimfield hopes to change such opinions. Known in the neighborhood for her work feeding the poor from her own house, Brimfield said she organized yesterday's picketing because she and other community activists dreamed up Mega as "a store serving our elderly, one that was black-owned. It meant everything to us."

Brimfield blames the District government for allowing Mega to fail and for not keeping a pledge she said city officials made to make sure the store remained black-owned.

The District government recognized the store's importance to the revival of H Street and provided the original owners with nearly $1 million in start-up money for fixtures and subsequently more than $200,000 in loans for operating capital.

But the owners maintained that the store was undercapitalized from the day it opened and that picketing by a local union made matters worse. In March, they filed for bankruptcy.

Once one of the city's busiest, the H Street corridor has been struggling to come back since dozens of buildings and businesses were destroyed in the 1968 riots. In recent years, drug trafficking and street crime have plagued the area.

In 1987, a new mall, H Street Connection, opened between Eighth and Ninth streets NE. Mega Foods is the anchor for a block of new construction between Sixth and Seventh streets.

Chun and Yun say they want to become a permanent part of the Northeast community. "We did pretty good today under the circumstances," Yun said. "We met all the customers, as much as possible. We introduced ourselves and we got a warm welcome."