Bantam Bagels founders Nick and Elyse Oleksak have welcomed two new babies into their lives this September: their second son, Blake, and a new portable breakfast food — mini pancake balls stuffed with buttered maple or lemon cream.
“The pancakes don’t cry as much,” said Nick Oleksak, laughing.
The husband-and-wife team who invented the bite-sized cream cheese-filled bagels now stocked at more than 7,000 Starbucks stores across the United States are going after the frozen foods aisle in your local grocery store with their second breakfast creation.
“What we did with the bagels was take something that was real and iconic and shrink it down, and we’re doing the same thing with the pancakes,” said Oleksak, 33, who opened the Bantam Bagels shop in the West Village with his wife after they both quit their jobs on Wall Street in September 2013.
Today, their company is still headquartered in Manhattan, but it’s added roughly 50 employees, a manufacturing plant in DUMBO and $13 million in sales since the Oleksaks clinched an investment of $275,000 on the sixth season of the reality TV show “Shark Tank.”
In spite of that growth, the couple spent almost nine months refining their new pancake recipe in their own kitchen — first in Park Slope, then in Connecticut when their family outgrew their Brooklyn apartment.
“This time, our 3-year old helped,” Elyse Oleksak, 32, said. “[Chase] was part of the taste test process.”
Chase’s frequent requests for pancakes were also a large part of the Oleksaks’ impetus for reinventing them in a convenient form, Nick said: “Even if you’re making it from a mix, you still have five things that need to be cleaned after you’re done.”
The concept of a pre-prepared, frozen pancake isn’t a novel one, but Nick Oleksak said Bantam Pancakes are made with real butter, cream and eggs, and they incorporate syrup in a form that doesn’t soak through.
“We’ve been through a million Williams Sonoma pans to figure out the nuts and bolts of this process, how would you want [your pancake] if it were from scratch and made on a Saturday,” Elyse said. “From there, we took it to a position where we could scale it and sell it.”
The microwavable pancake balls come in six flavors: homestyle, or plain; chocolate chip; strawberry with lemon cream; blueberry with lemon cream; banana praline; and apple cinnamon.
Each one is less than 100 calories, and New Yorkers can buy them in packages of three dozen online, or in boxes of nine at the Bantam Bagels store at 293 Bleeker St.
The Oleksaks are also rolling out their products into the frozen food aisles of Krogers and Safeway groceries in the coming months.
“For us, this is still very much our baby,” Nick Oleksak said of the company that he and his wife represent at meetings around the country. “We’re still very involved and we want to show that.”