Generational Vineyard Haven eatery to close 


There will be a lot of bereft customers when the Vineyard Haven bakery and deli Life at Humphreys — a business that has been serving Islanders for three-quarters of a century — closes in May.

Partners, Donna Diaz, the granddaughter of the founder of the original shop that opened 75 years ago, along with Peter Smyth, former owner of Slice of Life Cafe, have decided to move on to the next chapter of their lives.

The current incarnation of Humphreys, with its legacy as one of the oldest continually run family businesses on the Island, got its start in the 1920s when founder Argie Humphreys married Diaz’s grandmother Bernice and sold bread out of the back of his car during the Depression; he also sold turnovers door to door during World War II.

The couple would open their first store as a food co-op called Vineyard Food Shop in 1949, where Waterside Market is currently located.

Humphreys sold pies, bread, cookies, and doughnuts until about 1952. He then took a leap that others couldn’t understand, deciding to pack up and leave downtown Vineyard Haven for a family property on State Road in West Tisbury.

The shop began as a little shack, which Argie expanded over the years. In the late 1950s, Diaz’s mother baked all the cookies and cakes as a teenager, and later, when married, her husband made the bread and pies.

Diaz herself has many fond childhood recollections of the shop. “I remember sitting on the sacks of flour and watching my grandfather making bread, rolling out the heart-shaped cookies, and giving us warm ones.” He also had Diaz and her cousins packaging the goodies up. “We’d race to see who could package them faster,” she recalls.

Diaz says that Humphreys was a community institution from the beginning. “My grandfather was a really wonderful man. All the neighborhood kids would come, and he’d give them warm cookies out the back door. James Cagney and Katherine Hepburn used to come and have coffee. He had a whole little crew,” Diaz shares.

Argie’s son Bartlett Humphreys took over the business in the 1970s. When he retired in the early 1990s, Diaz and her then-husband stepped in as the third generation to run the business, moving it to its present location in Woodland Center some 15 years ago. They also changed the menu, adding a selection of sandwiches but still using her grandfather’s fresh bread recipe — the same one used today.

Diaz would eventually take over the shop a few years after divorcing her husband; nearing its 70th anniversary in 2018, Diaz began considering ways to revitalize and grow.

Serendipitously, Smyth had just closed Slice of Life, his Oak Bluffs restaurant, and was looking for what to do next. “Ironically, they were looking for a baker, and a mutual friend said, ‘I’ve got a better idea,’ so Donna and I started meeting and realized it would be a good thing,” he said.

Together, they rebranded as Life at Humphreys and the rest is history.

You still have about a month to enjoy some of their classic sandwiches, including Humphreys Famous Turkey Gobbler with house-made roasted turkey and stuffing, accented with cranberry sauce; The Humphreys Cuban with roasted pork, ham, and Swiss cheese; Slice’s Fried Green Tomato BLT, and a Pesto Panini.

Diaz reflects on her and Smyth’s six-year partnership, “We’ve become really good friends, and we are going to miss that.”

Speaking about the end of an era, Smyth expresses how much he appreciates Diaz and her family. She acknowledged the loyal staff members who came with him from Slice of Life as well as the clientele who followed him.

“People come in over the summer all the time and tell us, ‘I worked for your grandfather, and it was my first job.’ I want everybody to know that I appreciate it, and my family appreciates it. Honestly, I’m going to miss that the most,” she said.

Life at Humphreys: 455 State Road, Woodland Center in Vineyard Haven.
Hours: Monday through Friday: Bakery, 6:30 am to 4 pm; and Deli, 11 am to 3 pm. Saturday: Bakery, 6:30 am to 2 pm; and Deli, 11 am to 2 pm. Closed Sundays. For more information, see or call (508) 693-6518.




  1. oh no! I wish you could sell it to someone. I enjoyed reading the history of Humphrey’s in this article. I still miss the old Humphrey’s location. Best wishes to two people who have served this island well.

  2. Now that goes a great piece of the island remember going up there all the time right at the split to go up North road or head up to South road stop and get an apple fritter

    • I use to stop in when it was still in West Tisbury, on my way home from the Home Port..Giving out a shout out to Mark, grabbing a jelly donut and heading back to V.H, trying to gobble it down before I got home..It’s a sad day that it’s closing, a true piece of the Vineyard..

  3. Soooo sad! I was heartbroken when Humphrey’s left West Tisbury. Such a retro piece of a vanishing Vineyard. Thanks for keeping my husband in Gobblers, and me in doughnuts! We will miss you.

  4. I too was sorry to read about the closure of Humphrey’s after all these years. I have many early, and later, recollections. One of the earliest ones was of going up to West Tisbury with my mom, Ruth, and her best friend Gloria, to get Gloria’s favorite bread. the Anadama bread. Of course we also had to get a package of cookies and maybe a jelly stick donut if there were any left. Later years it was the sandwiches and belly bombs!
    I believe you forgot to mention the brief sojourn of Humphrey’s in Edgartown. I’m not sure what year it was, maybe 2016? when they had one summer in this little hole in the wall place on North Summer Street. I was still working at the Courthouse then and we’d go around the corner for genuine Humphrey’s sandwiches and cookies.
    I’ll also miss those Slice of Life fried green tomato BLTs. Glad to know we still have a little over a month to enjoy all of these and more. Thanks for the memories!

  5. I have enjoyed your Belly Bombs with raspberry filling since 1978! I don’t eat donuts from anywhere else. I live in Boston and my son was married on the Island in 2019. I special ordered 40 belly bombs for Sunday after the wedding! They were a hit! Eating one was always a highlight of the week spent on the Island every year. Thank you and enjoy the next chapter in your lives.

  6. I loved cubano sandwiches.
    I loved the west tisbury store.

    You will be missed and if I am looking for a silver lining to the old places leaving ? I’m grateful you didn’t sell to an owner who takes over an old island company and doesn’t keep the level of quality. I miss Darlings deeply but I’d despise it if they had become a remake in the manner we see many remakes here that are awful.
    Sometimes it’s better to end an amazing thing and treasure the memories.

    Good luck to your future endeavors and thank you to your family for the gift of Hunoreys. Many, many treasured memories in my heart thanks to your family.

  7. Congratulations 🎉 on many many years of hard work well done.
    I learned so much at my first real job back in the day making 🍪 🎂 and 🍩.
    Enjoy your new found freedom.
    Have a nice first summer off in lord knows how many yrs!! Maybe never!!

    • Started going to Humphreys back in 1987 when it was in West Tisbury will never forget the donuts and great pies too bad all the good little shops are closing an MV Martha’s menu it’s not the same anymore

  8. I use to stop in when it was still in West Tisbury, on my way home from the Home Port..Giving out a shout out to Mark, grabbing a jelly donut and heading back to V.H, trying to gobble it down before I got home..It’s a sad day that it’s closing, a true piece of the Vineyard..

  9. At the old West Tisbury location at the North Road split in the 60’ss their freshly baked loaves of oatmeal bread, sliced, toasted, and buttered were to die for!

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