San Clemente antique dealer built her business on friendships; now, at 86, she’ll retire to enjoy time with those friends

Tillie Domito, 86, said she isn’t worried about being lonely upon closing Plum Precious, the antique and jewelry store she has operated for 38 years in San Clemente.

“My customers at Plum Precious are all my personal, close friends,” she said.

She has no children and has outlived two husbands. Her second husband, Jack, passed away recently at 96 after 44 years of marriage. Still, she said, she has a wealth of friends, and her zest for life is as high-energy as ever.

“I will have lots of friends around me,” she said. “I’ve grown with the friends. That is what built my business.”

Tillie Domito, owner of Plum Precious, is pictured in her store in 2003. (File photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Tillie Domito, owner of Plum Precious, is pictured in her store in 2003. (File photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Domito decided to make Thursday, Feb. 15, her last day in the shop at 101 Avenida Miramar.

Domito grew up in the tiny North Dakota town of Strasburg, known as the hometown of entertainer Lawrence Welk. She later lived in Oregon and the San Francisco Bay area before arriving in Orange County.

Her husband, a manufacturer’s rep, was working a trade show in Anaheim and had an appointment in San Clemente. Domito took one look at the town and said she loved all she saw, the ocean, the ambiance, friendly people.

The next day, back in Anaheim, she caught a bus to San Clemente. It dropped her off on El Camino Real. She spotted a building down Avenida Miramar, tucked away behind an office complex in an alley.

There was a telephone number. She called to ask if the building was available.

“They came and met me at the site,” she said in a 2003 interview. “I leased it on the spot.

“I’ve been here for 38 years in San Clemente with all the charming people,” she said.

She’d had a dream of opening her own antique and jewelry store. But how to become known at such an out-of-the-way location? She began doing antique and jewelry shows at clubs, civic organizations, schools and churches. She did shows for the first 15 years.

“Then I got too busy in my store,” she said. “You would be surprised, after doing antique shows around Southern California how many people became my customers and came to my store, because we are a charming city. It was wonderful to bring new people to our city.”

She told the Register in 1991 she accumulated her antique collection on buying trips to Europe and the Orient and by attending estate sales up and down the west coast.

In recent weeks, Domito has been ramping down. Having bought the Plum Precious building years ago, she now has sold it. “It’s time,” she said.

Jack and Tillie Domito of San Clemente were pictured at the Exchange Club of San Clemente's 2013 St. Patrick's Day event at the Community Center. (File photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)
Jack and Tillie Domito of San Clemente were pictured at the Exchange Club of San Clemente’s 2013 St. Patrick’s Day event at the Community Center. (File photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

Q. How will you spend your time?

A. It will be fun just to travel and enjoy life. I go for walks at the beach. I think the Fisherman’s Restaurant is paradise. Why cook when you have the ocean and the Fisherman’s?

Q. Do you ever visit your hometown in North Dakota?

A. Once every five years. I have cousins by the dozens. They come out here. I think my hometown is still about 500 people.

Q. What is the secret to success and happiness?

A. When you do people good, they’ll be back.

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