You may not remember me, but if you shopped in the Bailey's Crossroads Hechinger store in the '80s, I probably waited on you. As a former employee, I was saddened by the response to Hechinger's demise [Business, Sept. 13].

I got my first job in 1978, at Hechinger No. 5, the old Duke Street store in Alexandria. My first nametag said, "I'm new, but I'm trying." The sales button I wore said, "Think Strawberries," reminding us to treat customers gently, like strawberries. That was corny, but it stuck with me -- the first of many lifelong lessons I learned at Hechinger. (Ask me how to install a light switch.)

Over the years, thousands of Washington homeowners learned to "do-it-themselves" from Hechinger salespeople, and they did it even when the parking lot was packed and cash register lines snaked halfway through the store. Many customers had a love-hate relationship with the company -- my own father regularly complained about going through bins of lumber looking for straight 2x4s. But this didn't stop Harry and Harriet Homeowner from lining up outside the doors before 6:30 a.m. on Saturday for mulch and azaleas and then stopping by after church again on Sunday for more mulch and another azalea.

By 1989 when I left the company, Hechinger already was losing ground in its battle to fend off the competition. Most of the employees I knew then are long gone, but the last loyal few did their best under difficult circumstances and deserve to be remembered for what went right as well as what went wrong.

On behalf of my former colleagues, including the husband I met while working there -- goodbye Hechinger, we will miss you.

ANGELA ZIESLER BELT

Washington