Friday, April 26, 2013

Halligan's Special Seasoning & Gourmet Rub

In October of 2012, I had the distinct privilege of meeting Robert Halligan II. Bob was the leader of a photo walk at La Jolla Cove as part of Scott Kelby's annual Worldwide Photo Walk experience. An easy-going fella, he was joined by his lovely wife Kathy, several friends and a cadre of strangers who would soon become lovely acquaintances—photo walks have a marvelous way of creating that effect on people! 

Bob on the "working end" of the camera!
I was working at Nik Software at the time and had attended a couple of photo walks in the past.  They're almost always fun and free software never sucks. I offered to bring a couple of raffle prizes for attendees. Being our most recent release HDR Efex Pro 2 seemed to be the hot ticket, but I also gave away a copy of the ├╝ber-flexible Color Efex Pro 4.

Construction took 7 months.
During the course of the walk Bob and I talked a bit about his background as a restauranteur and an independent financial professional with LPL Financial. I was particularly struck by his stories of opening up his own restaurant in Pacific Beach back in the '70's called Halligan's 4 Fish.

It sounded like a terrific joint that I just missed by a few years (having moved to PB back in early 1987, my house was only a few blocks from Halligan's). The famous Eleanor Widmer—notoriously a tough-minded food critic from the San Diego Reader—even gave it high marks.

Opening Night!
Bob and I talked a number of times after the photo walk and one day he stopped by the Nik office in Mission Valley with a gift for me:  A zip-lock bag with some of his special seasoning, a recipe nurtured and improved on since his restaurant days. It smelled wonderful and I couldn't wait to try it on a London Broil the upcoming weekend!  He confided that he was retiring from financial services soon, and it became clear that he still had fire in the belly for the food business. Bob gave me a couple of additional recipes and, with a twinkle in his eye asked me to let him know what I thought. He was pretty sure I'd like it...

He wasn't kidding! I rubbed the seasoning into the steak, covered it with cling wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for a day.  Pretty simple, especially for a Neanderthal like me. What emerged from my grill was a steak that somehow had deliciously been transformed into meat that was far more moist and delicious than I'd experienced before. Bob was a genius! 

As time went on and he kept me supplied with his seasoning, Bob mentioned that he was interested in selling the it in retail stores and online. Naturally I offered my wife Kim's design services for graphics and a website, and mentioned that I'd be happy to help him set up a blog and shopping cart as part of the website.  In February 2013, Bob again swung by the Nik office and we called the good folks at GoDaddy. In about 45 minutes, we had transferred his domain, purchased a hosting package and shopping cart, and installed WordPress. In the meantime, Bob worked with Wells Fargo to establish a merchant account and also swapping recipes with a seasonings formulator out of the Midwest to handle production and packaging. This thing was coming together!

Bob wanted to create a brand for his seasonings that exuded high-quality, yet positioned it for everyday use and versatility. Kim did a great job on the label design and the overall site design. The learning curve with the site in terms of hooking up the back-end pieces was moderately steep since I hadn't done it before, but relatively quick. I never hesitate to call live tech support to get advice from the Pros, so I think the GoDaddy people were getting to know me by name after awhile. We had some issues with the nameservers which wasn't our fault, but in other cases it was helpful to call for clarification and best practices. Overall, GoDaddy gets high marks for service.

The site went live in early April.  You can read the story of Halligan's, pick up some great recipes from his blog, and of course purchase the products. Bob reports sales to friends and family are steady and he's already in talks with several meat shops in town (even a restaurant or two). At just $4.99 for a 4oz. package, it's an easy sale. Bob and his wife pack and ship the seasonings from their house to yours. I'm confident the versatility and taste will keep people coming back for more—give it a try and let me know what you think in the comments section below!

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