Not just any Tacobar

Photograph of Tacobar getting a fresh look by Jonathan Pontell

“WE’RE NOT THE usual taqueria,” acknowledges Antonio Solano, the dynamic manager of Tacobar at Fillmore and California. Tacobar just got a facelift, an updated menu and a bright new paint job as the popular corner spot at the heart of the neighborhood prepares to celebrate its ninth birthday in April.

Tacobar is also now set up to accept online orders and payment, which lets customers skip the line for pick-ups. “You show up and it’s ready,” Solano says.

They’ve also partnered with the Caviar delivery service. “You’ve got to stay alert and give the customers what they want,” he says. “We love being here, and we want to continue to be successful.  What else can we bring? This is our baby. My dad taught me always to give 100 percent.”

Of the new color scheme and new menu items, he says: “We’re authentic, but reinvented.”

‘Retail is dead’ for 3 independents; not for brands

The fashion label Veronica Beard is opening a stand-alone shop at 2441 Fillmore.

RETAIL REPORT | RICHARD SPRITZER

Fillmore is losing three more of its independently owned small businesses. The Elizabeth Charles boutique is down to its final days, after 12 years at 2056 Fillmore, and March is the final month for the gift shop named for its address at 1906 Fillmore. They join the pioneering Brooklyn Circus shop at 1521 Fillmore in saying farewell to Fillmore Street.

“With the way consumers have been proving to shop in the last couple years, retail is dead, but experience and service are alive,” says Gabe Garcia, co-owner of Booklyn Circus. “I’ve been developing an exciting concept and solution to this challenge that I know the neighborhood would love and appreciate and I want to bring back to my retail space where I’ve spent 11 years.” But nothing is certain yet.

Elizabeth Charles moved to New York with her family three years ago and has decided to give up the commute. And while Victoria Dunham’s 1906 shop will close, she’s still going great guns next door at HiHo Silver.

At the same time, Fillmore Street says hello to two new fashion labels: Koio, the hot line of Italian leather sneakers, has opened its sixth shop at 2029 Fillmore. And the women’s fashion label Veronica Beard, available in department stores, will open its own stand-alone shop at 2241 Fillmore, where Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop popped up during the holidays.

No more pet therapy

FILLMORE BEAT | CHRIS BARNETT

For years, a treasure was hidden away on the second floor of Pets Unlimited, now a branch of the SPCA, at 2343 Fillmore. You could adopt a cat or dog to take home — or you could just stop by to pet a puppy, or to cuddle with a kitty. The adoption floor was the purrfect “therapy center” for folks who just wanted to spend time with the furry little ones, but didn’t want to make a commitment.

No more. The SPCA has changed the rules. The animal hospital will stay put, but not the petting. Now there will be “adoption events” only on certain days each month, but no more one-on-one getting-to-know-and-enjoy-you gatherings upstairs. Starting on Tuesday, March 12, and every Tuesday thereafter, a noon to 5 p.m. adoption session is planned, with similar events on Saturdays beginning March 23.

The curtain is rising on Noosh

The back bar at Noosh, “opening very soon” at Fillmore and Pine.

AT LONG LAST, the highly anticipated new casual fine dining restaurant coming to Fillmore and Pine is ready to offer the public a taste. Noosh passed its final health inspection on January 31 and began delivery and office catering in early February.

“This will give guests a first sneak peek at our fine casual menu,” says co-founder and CEO John Litz. “We now work through delivery and office catering . . . while we simultaneously interview, hire and train our staff, preparing for our soft opening very soon.”

During the year the restaurant has been in the works, Noosh has already blazed a new path by hosting dozens of private events as the restaurant was under construction and working through operational logistics. “Many of our Pacific Heights neighbors comment daily to us they think it’s a smart strategy that has created more interest,” Litz says, as well as an early revenue stream. “We are excited to bring it to Fillmore.”

THE FOUNDER

Photograph of Glady Thacher by Frank Wing

Glady Thacher started four nonprofits in her oversized living room — and they’ve helped people live better lives

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

Soon after her graduation from Smith College in the late 1940s, Glady Thacher took on the traditional roles of supportive wife and mother then mandatory for most women. But she quickly decided there was a loftier goal: reaching her full potential — and helping others reach theirs, too. As a result, thousands of women, and not a few men, have Thacher to thank for broadening and enriching their lives — mostly through organizations she nurtured and launched in her own living room.

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Browser starts a new literary journal

WHEN MEMBERS of the staff at Browser Books launched a successful Go Fund Me campaign last year to help assure the future of the beloved bookstore, they promised new efforts were coming to bring renewed life to the 40-year-old Fillmore Street fixture. Already additional staffers have come on board, book readings have begun and a monthly book group has been formed.

Now Browser Books has launched its own literary journal called Stories from the Street. The inaugural issue is available at Browser for $12. It features poems, short stories, reviews, drawings and a photo essay.

“So many creative people walk through our doors every day,” says Catie Damon, editor of the journal, whose father Stephen Damon is the longtime owner of Browser Books. “We wanted to create an opportunity for our community to share their creative work. Fact or fiction, we’re interested in what our neighborhood has to say.”

Send submissions and inquiries to browserstories@gmail.com.

A love letter to Our Town

BOOKS | NORA JACKSON

When you compile a “best of” book from a neighborhood newspaper that’s outstanding to begin with, you’re bound to get an impressive result. Our Town: Best of the New Fillmore packs into one volume the New Fillmore’s shiniest nuggets, and the stunning final product leaves even a longtime resident like me feeling she never really knew the place.

It might seem an overwhelming task to capture the rich layers of history concentrated in this neighborhood, but this elegant, oversized volume covers it all nimbly and compellingly with first person stories, rare vintage photographs and striking modern images. Vanished eras come alive: the day electricity came to the street; the dark time leading up to World War II when the neighborhood’s Japanese citizens were taken from their homes and put in internment camps; the years when redevelopment leveled whole blocks and wiped out the Fillmore’s vibrant African American community. Here are Bill Graham’s Winterland stories, and the saga of the rise of the Peoples Temple cult that ultimately led to the Jonestown tragedy in Guyana.

The Fillmore neighborhood was a root-place for so much that shaped culture through the decades, and this book does a masterful job of embracing it all: Etta James ran through these streets in a girl gang. Carlos Santana’s studio was here. In an apartment above Fillmore Street the artist Jay DeFeo created a painting deemed one of the 10 greatest of the 20th century. Just around the corner was the studio of the photographer Ruth Bernhard.

Much of the power of the book comes from its first person stories: You’ll hear from the local landlord who rented an apartment to the Black Panthers and from the Beat poet who describes what it was like to read at Minnie’s Can Do Club in the ’60s.

The book is further enriched by stories told by locals of our own era, who talk of neighborhood legends and the secret lives of the street: the culture that flourished at the Donut Hole, long since replaced by a taco bar; the enigma known as Sugar’s Broiler — was it ever actually open? There’s the beloved hardware store manager who retired but still delivers eggs to a select few; the poet who sold exotic birds; the personal story of a woman who founded a legendary store: Iris Fuller, creator of Fillamento. The book includes her “love letter” to the store, written after it closed, and it captures sentiments that apply equally to the world made so vivid in Our Town: “You were an amazing place where people grew, loved, cried and died.”

The authors have captured and preserved the essence of this place, with all its eccentricity and complexity. I was swept into another world as I read it, a magical place I couldn’t pull myself out of for days after I put the book down.

Nora Jackson is a historical novelist and a longtime neighborhood resident. 

OUR TOWN: Best of the New Fillmore is available at Browser Books on Fillmore Street or by mail from Norfolk Press.

The thin red line

Photograph of the Pelosi home in Pacific Heights by Jonathan Pontell

NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENT and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — much in the news during the fight over funding a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border — came under fire for having a “high perimeter wall” and “gun-toting security” around her home in Pacific Heights. A group called President Trump Fans posted: “Walls for her house are OK … but not us.”

In fact, there’s no wall around Pelosi’s longtime family home, although the red curb prohibiting parking near her house does have a fresh coat of paint.

POLITIFACT: “No, Nancy Pelosi’s home doesn’t sit behind a high wall

Music at the market

Budding musicians from the SFJazz High School All-Stars perform at the Fillmore market.

MIA SIMMANS, manager of the Fillmore Farmers Market since last May, is a true believer — both in farmers markets and in the music that makes the Fillmore market unique.

Her cred on both scores is impeccable: For the last seven years, she’s been both a vendor and musician at several of the farmers markets in the area. “It’s a great way for a musician to make a living,” she says. “You get to play during the day, and then go home and sleep in your own bed.”

In fact, two of the combos that regularly perform at the Fillmore market — the Dave Parker Sextet and the group now headed by Kenny Rhodes — have been playing at the Saturday morning market at Fillmore and O’Farrell for more than a decade.

But it can be a tough way to make a living. Most markets can’t pay musicians anywhere near what they’re worth. The mothership organization, the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association, is a nonprofit and is typically strapped for funds. The Fillmore market currently pays nothing at all; musicians only pocket the tips from grateful listeners and passersby.

But Simmans is determined to change that. She takes inspiration from the pluck and perseverance of Tom Nichol, who founded and managed the Fillmore market for a dozen years until shortly before his death in 2015. The two were friends.

“Tom was able to raise money to pay the musicians from within the community,” Simmans says. “And I want to keep that going in his memory.”

With some help from market headquarters, Simmans recently applied for two grants, and at least one of them looks promising. “If we get that grant, we may be able to pay something — maybe $25 to each musician,” she says. “And if we get that second grant, well, then we could be talking about something real.”

Simmans still makes music, playing and singing under the stage name Mama Mia d’Bruzzi when she’s not out managing markets. She also manages the Castro and Alameda markets. “But the Fillmore is my favorite,” she confesses. “It’s got the music — and, really, some of the greatest vendors.”

Says she: “I really believe in the farmers. These are the guys sweating in the fields. And I really believe farmers markets are an important way to take back the country from the big corporations. It’s a peaceful revolution.”

‘From the girl to the dial’

Photograph of the telephone exchange at 1930 Steiner Street by Shayne Watson

ARCHITECTURE | BRIDGET MALEY

The imposing and somewhat out-of-place building at the southeast corner of Steiner and Pine Streets was completed in 1932 as a Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Co. switching station, a function that continues today.

Designed by architect Edwin V. Cobby, the building both blends in to the streetscape, with its neutral terra cotta cladding, and also stands out for its scale and Art Deco-influenced architecture. It is especially radiant on sunny days when the terra cotta tiles glow in the afternoon light.

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