Faced with the aging rock 'n' roller's choice between death or glory, burning out or fading away, a small cadre of San Francisco rockers has chosen an innovative third path: selling pancakes in a spray can.
The Batter Blaster is the brainchild of Sean O'Connor, who owned and operated Potrero Hill's divey rock club Thee Parkside from its inception in 2001 until 2005. He'd long nursed the visionary idea that instant pancake batter should be available in no-mess Reddi-wip–style cans, and when a failed buyout plan separated him from his club, he decided to make his dream a delicious reality.
It has taken three years for O'Connor's batter baby to become available on Whole Foods and Costco shelves up and down the West Coast and the Upper Midwest. "We're crushing in Orange County," he boasts. "All that suburban sprawl. [Batter Blaster's] organic, it's really easy, it's novel: It's perfect for the soccer mom." Jay Leno is another SoCal fan; he and David Letterman have apparently expressed interest in featuring the product and maybe its owner on their shows.
As the business has grown, Batter Blaster's president and CEO has had to bolster its work force. So where does an erstwhile rocker look for help with his burgeoning pancake company? Why, the music biz, of course. O'Connor, for instance, tapped old friend Nick Tangborn, proprietor of the Jackpine Social Club label (which has released records from local favorites Kelley Stoltz and the Herms) and until recently the director of product marketing at file-sharing site BitTorrent, to be Batter Blaster's director of operations. (See the Jan. 23 Weekly cover story for more on Bit-Torrent's fortunes in the post-Batter Blaster age.) Sarah Baumann, once the booker for Albany rock dive the Ivy Room, is now O'Connor's executive assistant.
O'Connor concedes he needs assistance with certain aspects of the business. "On my list of strengths, organization is ... not even on my list of strengths," he says.
He doesn't sound like a man who misses running a dive bar. "It's exciting to be in a business that's outside of slinging drinks, which has that sin angle," he says. "We're able to offer something good for families and good for kids." Unlike running a whiskey-soaked scuzzy rock club, Batter Blaster is also environmentally responsible: The steel can, plastic tip, and CO2 canister are recyclable.