Familiar North Tisbury Bakery Forced to Relocate Amid Feud

By JAMES KINSELLA

A family fight is heating up over Humphreys bakery in North Tisbury, a store beloved by Vineyarders for such offerings as the Belly Bomb and the Gobbler.

The landmark establishment, whose roots extend back to a founder who walked the streets of Vineyard Haven selling pies for $10 a week, is the subject of a dispute between its owner, Joyce Duarte, and the couple who have leased the bakery since 1996, Mike and Donna Diaz.

Mrs. Duarte inherited the establishment in 2003 following the death of her brother, Bart Humphreys. She has notified her niece, Donna Diaz, and Donna's husband, Mike Diaz, that she does not intend to renew the lease, which is up in January.

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Mrs. Duarte said she plans to have a family member operate the bakery at its longtime location at 32 Old Courthouse Road in the North Tisbury section of West Tisbury. She declined to identify that person.

"Both are very good people," Mrs. Duarte said yesterday of the Diazes. "Both are very good workers. They've done excellent work."

But Mrs. Duarte, a West Tisbury resident who also owns a home in Maine, said Humphreys in fact is her business, and she's now decided to run it.

Meanwhile, Mr. Diaz said he was surprised a few days ago to learn that Mrs. Duarte did not intend to renew the lease. He said he planned to offer her a good income stream and to make leaseholder improvements at the property.

The Diazes now plan to shift their operation to Vineyard Haven and to continue to use the Humphreys name. They also plan to continue to operate their seasonal Humphreys on Winter street in Edgartown.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, Humphreys, as you've known it for the past 10 years, has been forced to leave its West Tisbury location," the Diazes wrote in a letter sent yesterday to the Gazette. "It is with great sadness that we write this letter."

The next battle apparently is brewing over the use of the Humphreys name and the bakery's recipes. Mrs. Duarte said her attorney has notified the Diazes that they are to stop using either.

While Mr. Diaz declined to discuss in a telephone interview what will happen with the recipes, he sent the Gazette documentation showing that in 2003 he trademarked the Humphreys name. In the letter to the editor, the Diazes state that "our same great standards and your favorite bakery goods and sandwiches" will be available at the Vineyard Haven location.

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The Diazes also own a Massachusetts corporation known as Humphreys Inc., with the same address as the current bakery.

Mr. Diaz said the historic business started by his wife's grandfather, Argie Humphreys, actually was known as the Vineyard Food Shop.

In 1992, Mr. Diaz began working for the bakery's then-owner, Bart Humphreys. In 1996, Mr. Diaz said, he and his wife began operating the bakery on their own. He said Mr. Humphreys asked them to establish a separate business account, which they called the Vineyard Food Shop Bakery. Mr. Diaz said he later shifted that business into the corporation known as Humphreys Inc.

Mr. Diaz said the situation is the outfall of disagreements between his wife's mother, Bernice Kirby, and her aunt, Joyce Duarte.

Bart Humphreys died in 2003. His will left his estate to his sister, Joyce Duarte.

But Mrs. Kirby and her sister, Rosalie Powell, filed an affidavit in Dukes Probate Court, objecting to the allowance of the will. In the affidavit, Mrs. Kirby and Mrs. Powell stated that they believed Bart Humphreys was not of sound mind when he filed the will, and that Joyce Duarte had exercised undue influence on him.

Joyce Duarte and her attorney, Edward W. Vincent of Edgartown, are the co-executors of the estate. She and Mr. Vincent filed a motion to strike the objections of Mrs. Kirby and Mrs. Powell. In that motion, Mrs. Duarte and Mr. Vincent argued that belief wasn't an adequate standard, and that in any case the sisters hadn't "provided any credible, reliable and admissible evidence of lack of testamentary capacity."

Mrs. Kirby and Mrs. Powell subsequently withdrew their objection to the will.

Mrs. Duarte, who lives in the main family house next to the bakery, said yesterday that it has taken her a while to decide what to do with the business, but that she has now done so.

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The business known as Humphreys, Mrs. Duarte said, is "still on the site. It's still in the family. I am the family." She said she would not bring in non-family members to run the business.

"There is going to be a bakery there next summer," she said. "It will be Humphreys bakery. They can't take the business with them."

But Mrs. Diaz said they have the know-how. "They don't have the recipes," she said, "and they've never made a cruller."