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Tom Blake

By Tom Blake

On Dec. 11, I held a book signing that featured my new memoir, Tutor & Spunky’s Deli. A Dana Point Landmark. The book is about my 26 years of opening, operating, and eventually selling Tutor & Spunky’s Deli in Dana Point. The signing was held at the shop.

I didn’t expect many people to show up, for a couple of reasons. I’d already had two book signings and several people had already purchased the book. To promote this signing, I only put a notice in the deli front window and notified a few acquaintances who were mentioned in the book, thinking they might want to read what was written about them.

In addition to displaying the memoir on a table where customers could see it, I also had the four other printed books I’ve written on the same table.

Nice things started to happen. A couple in their early 40s came in for a sandwich. When they were perusing the books on the table, I heard the guy say to his lady, “This Finding Love After 50 book would be good for mom to read.”

I introduced myself, and asked, “Is mom single?”

He said, “She’s a new widow. She has no idea what to do. She married right out of high school and has never dated anyone else. Will you sign one for her?”

“Of course,” I said.

And then he added, “I’m J.J.; I went to Dana Hills High School with your former stepson, Mikey. I’ve eaten at this deli for 30 years. Seeing you brings back great memories of Dana Point.”

I autographed the book to his mom and also signed a complimentary copy of the fourth book I wrote, titled How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 for her.

And I said, “I suggest she sign up for our free e-newsletter, which could help her through a very difficult time.”

As J.J. and his lovely woman left, it occurred to me that meeting them and likely helping his mom were worth the entire book signing effort that day.

And then, two women, a mother and daughter, looked at the books displayed on the table as they were waiting for their lunch.

The younger woman said, “You wrote these?”


She said, “We’re both single, mother and daughter. Why are you here?”

I said, “I owned this deli for 26 years.”

She said, “You owned a restaurant and you’re also an author?”

I said, “Yes, I was fortunate enough to become a newspaper columnist and have been writing articles on finding love for 25-plus years.”

“What newspaper?” she asked.

“The Dana Point Times, San Clemente Times, and The Capistrano Dispatch,” I said.

The daughter said, “Can you sign two new deli books—one to Lana, who is mom, and one to me, Lana S.”

I said, “Lana? As in the movie star Lana Turner?”

They nodded. I said, “And this is my significant other, Greta, as in Garbo.” They laughed.

Then, a tall man named Jim, mid-70s, came in wearing a Diablos (Mission Viejo High School) sweatshirt. He said he helps out with the basketball program there. I love it—a senior volunteering to help kids.

Jim said, “I need three books. A new deli book and two How 50 Couples Found Love After 50 books.”

“Why two 50 Couples books?” I asked.

“One for me and one for my friend Fred. He’s having trouble meeting women and knows that that book explains how all those couples met.”

Jim added, “I came to your meet-an-greets here at the deli. Met a nice woman, and we were dating exclusively for a couple of months. But it ended. So, I need one, too.”

Vince and Julie, a couple I’ve known for years, stopped by after working at their booth at the Saturday outdoor market in the Dana Point Plaza, where they sell hats with custom logos.  

And then Dana Point resident Ron Sobel came to get one of the new books. In 1988, Ron opened Ron’s New York Deli in Dana Point Harbor at the same time I opened Tutor and Spunky’s. Ron and Vince have known each other for 35 years, so they found time to get caught up.

A bit later, another longtime friend, Patrick Hynes, with whom I worked at the Victoria Station Restaurant chain in the 1970s, came in to get one of the new deli books. Patrick is originally from Adelaide, Australia. He used to be the concierge at the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

And then a woman who was dressed to the nines arrived. It took a few seconds for my partner, Greta, and me to recognize her. We had met Sally in 2007, while riding the Venice Simplon Orient Express train on a trip from Venice to Paris.

I said to Sally, “Why are you dressed so exquisitely?”

She said, “I live in a retirement community. Your book signing was an opportunity for me to get out and socialize.”

As we were wrapping up, Cathy McCool and her husband, Dave Duree, came in to get a new deli book to see what positive things I wrote about McCool’s Flowers, a business Cathy so successfully operated for more than 30 years.

It was getting dark. And we seniors didn’t want to drive in the dark, so we adjourned. What a special time it turned out to be.

This simple outing reminded me that life is about friends and cherishing old memories. Not many books were sold, but that didn’t matter; seeing old friends and meeting new ones is what was important. And it reminded me of how blessed I’ve been in my life.

I’ll see you in 2022.

Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at To comment:

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