The operators of Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury have traditionally been known as the “Dealers in Almost Everything.”

But it seems that the current Alley’s operators cannot deal with their landlord, the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust.

The current operators — Victor Spelman, Emily Milstein and Will and Deborah Ware — have decided to sell their interest in the State Road general store in order to concentrate on a new retail business in Oak Bluffs.

The main reason behind the sale is a disputed lease arrangement between the operators and the Preservation Trust, the Edgartown-based organization which purchased Alley’s in 1992 and dramatically renovated its interior and exterior.

Mr. Spelman, Miss Milstein and the Wares reopened the store in 1994, entering a 10-year lease with the trust. The lease had two terms, one ending in 1999, and a second term, renewable at the partners’ option, lasting until 2004.

To the public, the Alley’s reopening was a historic moment —  the operators and the trust have been widely praised for revitalizing the 139-year-old store — but now, this landlord-tenant relationship has soured. Mr. Spelman and his partners are seeking a new individual or group to come in and assume control of the general store.

But even if the partners sell, Alley’s will remain Alley’s. When the trust purchased the building in 1992 for $300,000 and spent an equal amount gutting and rehabbing the dilapidated store, it promised to maintain the tradition of a general store.

“Obviously, Alley’s is a very important store, especially to this part of the Island,” trust executive director Christopher Scott said yesterday. “We are committed to making sure that Alley’s remains a country general store, year ’round.”

Citing a nondisclosure agreement with the Alley’s partners, Mr. Scott declined comment on the disagreements over the general store’s lease.

But clearly, the marriage between the trust, Mr. Spelman, Miss Milstein and the Wares has been a bumpy one. The partners had several problems with the trust’s lease, a unique agreement which they considered too restrictive to their business.

Mr. Spelman lightly brushed at these problems in a prepared statement he submitted to the Gazette yesterday morning.

The statement indicates that problems with the trust — particularly the organization’s refusal to grant a long-term lease — were a major reason the partners opted to sell.

“Unlike the typical business that rents from a landlord, we cannot move to another location, and so the continued investment that is crucial for Alley’s to complete is dependent on a long-term commitment,” Mr. Spelman wrote.

“Because of this, we approached the trust for a renewal of our commercial lease and license lease at the end of its term, explaining why we felt this commitment was essential. The trust ‘declined at this time,’ indicating that at whatever point it might someday consider a renewal, it would be based on what is in ‘the best interests of the Trust in that time.’”

Mr. Spelman’s statement concludes with a mild swipe at the trust, hinting that the organization failed to provide adequate support — “an abiding roof” — for the business:

“The foundation we have built, based on new suppliers, a rebuilt interior, a sound balance sheet, responsible management and respect for the customers, needs an abiding roof. Under these circumstances and guided by what is in the best interests of the store, we have no choice but to put the business up for sale. It is our hope that we will find someone who will be able to secure a long-term commitment.”

Despite the differences between the partners and the trust, the two sides have remained civil. Yesterday, Mr. Scott praised the work done at Alley’s by Mr. Spelman and his co-operators.

Since reopening in the summer of 1994, the store has returned as a center of up-Island activity. The operators returned traditional services like hardware and dry goods departments, and added new items like video cassette rentals and lottery tickets.

Mr. Scott said he wasn’t surprised by the operators’ decision to sell.

“They have made a business decision, which we respect,” he said. “They have done a terrific job, and we wish them the best of success with their new business in Oak Bluffs.”

Mr. Spelman, Miss Milstein and the Wares are at work on a new retail operation on upper Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs. The business will resemble an old-fashioned general store with penny candy and eclectic houseware items.

And until a new operator is found in West Tisbury, the partners will continue to operate Alley’s. The trust must approve any new operator, Mr. Scott said.

“We want an individual or a team that has the capability and the expertise to run the store and, ideally, make a long-term commitment to the Island,” Mr. Scott said.

While he declined to name potential buyers, Mr. Scott said that Alley’s is likely to attract considerable interest.

“I’m aware that there is interest from some well-qualified applicants,” he said.