The Downtown Report: Mid-April Edition

Joe Tatar, Fullerton Icon

The call came in the morning after Joe passed, a plea to make sure there was an appropriate tribute to a man who graced so many stages and events in Fullerton. It’s hard to imagine anyone who saw him perform not being immediately smitten. From the earliest days of Cal State Fullerton and the elephant races to his last day, playing the piano at 3am when the paramedics arrived, Joe was going full tilt.

Photo courtesy of Day of Music.

I first became aware of him at the original Heroes location, got to know him a bit when I stopped by his home when he was having a yard sale, and like so many others, saw the ubiquitous piano man again and again. Particularly memorable were his performances on the Fox Fullerton stage. In our next issue, you will be regaled with personal messages and photos. Joe Tatar, gone at the age of 81, a true vaudevillian who left a lasting impression.

The Heartbeat of Downtown

Known by many as the Farmer’s Market, the annual return of the Fullerton Market took place on Thursday, April 7. No sign of Dan the Market Man; did anyone spot him, or is he still MIA? The Farmer’s Market is certainly a chief component but adding crafts and food vendors along with live music, an open Museum Center, and the beer and wine garden are what created an atmosphere that makes us feel like sticking around after making a bee line to our favorite farmers’ produce stands. Many in attendance hang out in the area just east of the courtyard, and some tell Dad jokes. I heard that one guy was not a Dad but still told the jokes. He was a faux pa.

The Plaza stage comes to life each week at 6:30pm and despite the heat, there was dancing going on. Below is the lineup for the next few months. Be there or be square.

A case can be made that the market opening in 1996 marked the beginning of the rebirth of our Downtown. The area had gotten a bit tired and worn and needed some new life. With the influx of shoppers in the late afternoon, early evening, places like the Blue Wolf Bookstore suddenly had a brisk Thursday business and wow, even offered coffee. It’s hard to believe now but finding a place for coffee downtown was rare in those days. Other retailers saw new customers and restaurants also saw an uptick in business.

Museum Center

The Fullerton Museum Center opened at the former Carnegie Library in April of 1974 and major renovations took place in 1985. Since then, a lot of amazing installations and events have graced the place, and the current exhibit is a standout, as Brian Torres explains: “As a lifelong Fullerton resident, former City Employee, and now a graphic design consultant, I have attended and participated in many exhibits at the Museum Center. The current show, POSADA: The Iconic Printmaker and His Legacy in Popular Culture, is near and dear to my heart. Capturing the daily life in Mexico City from 1889-1913, his etchings and prints are timeless and play a large part and influence in our pop cultural appreciation of the traditional holiday Dia de Muertos.” Visit for more info.

Brian Torres at the current Fullerton Museum Center art exhibit.

Pollywogs or Tadpoles?

This section of our natural waterway at the drought-ravaged western edge of Hillcrest Park was just about dried up with little hope of producing thousands of tiny soon-to-be toads or frogs this spring. Having seen them many times in my youth and even having gathered and taken some home to make sure toads were on hand to keep insects out of our vegetable garden, checking this out has become an annual ritual. Alas, things were looking bleak. As you can see by these photos, taken 24 hours apart, the recent rain changed everything, and has brought new life to not only the duck pond, but to many areas, including Frog Creek. Hoping to spot some of those pollywogs/tadpoles swimming down from those areas in the coming weeks.

New in Town

Bazak Bazak Rice Hot Dog will soon be serving Korean Street food at Harbor and Chapman and The Starbucks next door is being transformed into Spotless Burgers, featuring all plant-based burgers and lots of other healthy foods. Spotless adds to the vegan and vegetarian options that are popping up in our downtown. Chicana Vegana has been open since 2017, Green Bliss since 2012, and our venerable Rutabegorz has been open since 1970. Many don’t know the difference between vegan and vegetarian. Vegetarians exclude meat, poultry, fish, and seafood from their diets, so they don’t consume any animal flesh. Vegans exclude all meat plus animal products like dairy and eggs, so it is a more limited diet. Meat and non-meat eaters like myself are very happy to have more options, so welcome to Downtown Fullerton.

Photo Quiz

This artwork is in plain sight on the side of a downtown restaurant. Name the restaurant and the location. Send answer to Mike at

5 replies »

  1. Thank you so much, it’s readers like you that make doing this rewarding. That particular location does seem to be very difficult to make a business successful, I will check back and see if anything is coming soon

  2. Love the Downtown Report. Such a readable part of the Observer. Might have missed it, but any plans for the former Tazon (sp?) at northeast corner of Harbor and Chapman? What a loss. That site has such limited call-to-action from the streets and such awkward parking that I’m sure it’s challenging.

  3. I appreciate that, I did leave the website address so you can access that info, we have limited space in the print version. The Downtown Plaza is on Wilshire just East of Harbor and it is open Thursdays from 4:30pm to 8:30pm

  4. It would help if you told us exactly where the Fullerton Farmers Market is located along with dates and times.