The success of “Famous” Wally Amos is proof that fanaticism can be profitable. “I’ve got a love affair with chocolate chip cookies,” Amos says, “that borders on being fanatical.”
Today, Wally Amos is chairman of The Famous Amos Chocolate Chip Cookie Corporation, which grosses over $6 million a year and bakes six tons of cookies every week.
It’s been a rough road to success for Wally Amos. Like many successful entrepreneurs, he did not complete high school. In 1957, he was stock clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue, hired for the Christmas holidays only. He was asked to stay on, promoted to supply manager, and sent to New York University to study retailing and merchandising. After his request for a raise was denied, Amos left Saks to become a trainee with the William Morris Agency. Before long, he was a talent agent, booking the Temptations, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, and Bobby Goldsboro, and signing the then unknown Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. In 1967, Amos formed his own talent agency on the west coast. On his daily rounds he would pass out chocolate chip cookies which he had baked from his Aunt Della’s recipe. Soon he became known as “the chocolate chip man,” and was urged to open his own retail store.
In 1975, Amos succumbed to the wishes of his friends, opening his first store on Sunset Boulevard. By working 18-hour days, he turned his cookies and himself into celebrities. His costume – a Hawaiian print shirt and straw hat – is in the Smithsonian Institution collection. The company logo, a picture of Amos balancing a giant cookie on one finger, now appears on jewelry, T-shirts, and bumper stickers. His cookies sell in elite department stores such as Neiman-Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, and in some supermarkets.
Since 1970, Wally Amos has been the national spokesman for Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA), which helps educate the 23 million adult Americans who are functionally illiterate. As he puts it, “To support the community is to support yourself, because the community is your customer.”