As a native New Yorker, Angela Delgado proudly states that she knows what good pizza is. Which is why she was so shocked Tuesday afternoon when she found the door to Humpy’s Pizza locked and the windows covered.
“I can’t believe it. I was just here last week. They really do have the best pizza in town, and I’m from New York. I’m very critical [when it comes to pizza].” Along with great slices, she expressed an affinity for the cupcakes and the rest of the menu. “I was so sad.”
Don Croxton and Doug Pew, who have been married for 47 years, can’t believe it either. The two have been eating at Humpy’s for years. “What now [for lunch]?” asked Pew of Croxton as they got back into their car.
Opened in February of 2007 in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, Humpy’s was the recipient of multiple awards for its pizza, including being voted “Best Pizza” six times by SFGN readers. But it wasn’t a lack of business or satisfied customers that forced Humpy’s to close, said owner Steve DeJong.
“Basically, they’re raising the rent to the point where it’s unmanageable and not feasible to stay in business. And they’re going to raise it every year for the next 10 years. They’re playing hardball. It just baffles me they’re not willing to negotiate. We have a third of the shopping center empty,” said Dejong.
He added that the increase would have meant an increase to customers. Something he wasn’t willing to do.
“They’re basically putting us out of business. We’re very disappointed and want to thank all our loyal customers and the community which have supported us for many years.” Dejong said right now he doesn’t know if or where he will reopen.
Along with the rent increase, another factor was a lawsuit against Humpy’s for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Dejong said he fixed the problems, which were minor, but was still hit with a lawsuit.
“It’s really just a shakedown of small businesses and we’re being bullied. It’s just too much potentially for us to bare.” He said the lawsuit was dismissed, but only because he’s closing the business.
"While I am happy our case against Humpy’s was dismissed I am more saddened by the decision to close,” Humpy's attorney George Castrataro said. “Humpy’s has demonstrated solid commitment to the community and their presence will be missed.”
Jonathan Gaines, principal with Rivercrest Realty, which owns the Shoppes of Wilton Manors, said he was disappointed he and Dejong couldn’t come to terms on the lease.