When Wally Amos launched Well known Amos cookies in 1975, the brand grew to become 1 of the most unlikely achievement tales in foodstuff background. And the increase and tumble of Wally Amos turned one of its most infamous cautionary tales. Here’s how a man who broke the color barrier in the expertise industry and introduced a cookie empire aided improve American preferences.
Who Is Famed Amos?
Wally Amos, Jr. was born in Florida in 1936. He moved to New York City’s Harlem at age 12 to dwell with his Aunt Della. Amos dropped out of large school, but attained his G.E.D. even though serving in the Air Drive. In 1957, he returned to New York and joined the William Morris Company, wherever he labored his way up from the mailroom to become the first black talent agent in the industry. Amos headed the rock ’n’ roll department, where he signed Simon and Garfunkel and worked with Motown megastars The Supremes, Diana Ross, Sam Cooke and Dionne Warwick.
When a new task prospect in Los Angeles backfired, Amos grew disillusioned with present enterprise. He began baking cookies making use of his Aunt Della’s recipe. “Cookies ended up a interest to relieve tension,” says his son Shawn Amos, musician and author of Cookies & Milk. Hollywood tastemakers began to acquire see: “I’d go to meetings with record organization or motion picture folks and bring along some cookies, and very quickly most people was asking for them,” Amos instructed The New York Instances in 1975.
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Wally Amos Launches Popular Amos in 1975
That 12 months, Amos introduced the initial Famed Amos retail store on Los Angeles’s Sunset Boulevard. It was an unlikely put to offer cookies: “The East side of Sunset was seedy,” Shawn states. “There were being prostitutes. We have been across the avenue from a strip joint. We have been held up a pair of moments. But a few blocks down was the A&M Documents loft, wherever Father had places of work up coming to Quincy Jones. He noticed something. He felt that what he was performing would transcend the neighborhood.”
Amos was recently divorced, so his time at the store was his time with his son. “I stood on milk crates to ring up consumers,” Shawn states. “I worked the entrance Father labored the back.” They marketed 3 sorts of cookies by the pound: chocolate chip peanut butter, chocolate chip with pecan and a butterscotch chip with pecan.
The Popular Amos brand name obtained backing from celeb investors like Marvin Gaye and Helen Reddy, who gave Amos $25,000 towards his new organization. The grand opening was a star-studded gala attended by 1,500 persons, nevertheless “Famous Amos” was the serious star of the model, appearing on packaging and items in his signature straw hat and embroidered cotton shirt. Good results arrived swiftly: The Well known Amos Cookie Business bought $300,000 value of cookies its first 12 months and was earning $12 million in revenue by 1982. In Wally’s possess text, his was “the deal with that introduced a thousand chips.”
An Unlikely Good results Tale
“The notion of a zero-preservative, craft-made cookie was unusual,” suggests Jesse Szewczyk, author of Cookies: The New Classics. In an age of mass production, Amos established his sights on anything a lot more upscale than the local supermarket, distributing his cookies in Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Amos even appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from 1977 to 1981. “Amos elevated a item that was observed as an everyday item into a gourmand working experience, says Szewczyk.
Holding the “famous” in “Famous Amos,” the entrepreneur manufactured visitor appearances on strike Television shows like “The Jeffersons” and “Taxi.” Amos held a getaway block celebration exactly where movie star guests included Andy Warhol and Muhammad Ali. “Food is component of pop tradition, a lot like style,” Szewczyk states.
Launching the very first high quality chocolate chip cookie led to level of competition, and the increase of models like Mrs. Fields’ Initial Cookies and upmarket products traces from Duncan Hines and Nabisco began biting into Amos’s market share.
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It All Arrives Crumbling Down
Amos struggled to hold up with the brand’s swift development. By 1985, Famed Amos described a $300,000 reduction on income of $10 million. “He was not a businessman. He was an remarkable marketer and experienced terrific promotional instincts. But he made a ton of negative choices,” his son suggests.
Amos continued to raise dollars although diluting his own equity. At a single place, he shed his dwelling. In 1985, Amos offered a majority stake to Bass Brothers Enterprises for $1.1 million. “He sold it to save it,” Shawn suggests. “He’s constantly been impulsive. A whole lot of business people are. That identical spark that can travel you to just take a chance stops you from listening to other individuals. You consider you are infallible.”
Two profits later, the new proprietors added shelf-stable elements and repositioned the cookies as an affordable brand, prompting its well-known founder to depart. In 1992, President Baking Enterprise bought Well-known Amos for $61 million—more than 55 moments what Wally Amos bought his controlling stake for just a several many years earlier.
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What Occurred to Wally Amos?
That calendar year, Wally Amos released Wally Amos Offers hazelnut cookies. He was immediately sued for trademark infringement and forbidden from making use of his have identify and likeness. He recalled: “I was silly, plain and simple. I bought the enterprise and did not comprehend I had bought my long term together with it.” Undeterred, he improved the brand’s identify to Uncle Nonamé. It filed for individual bankruptcy in 1996.
In 1999, Amos signed a offer with the new owner of Renowned Amos, Keebler, to act as spokesperson. He said certainly on the condition that they craft the recipe nearer to the initial. “It was bittersweet,” claims his son. “He was happy to be again in the heart of the brand he began, but he also experienced a tough time accepting the simple fact that at the close of the day, he was just a paid spokesperson.”
Amos soon remaining again—this time for superior. He pivoted to muffins with Uncle Wally’s Muffin Co. and opened a bake store in Hawai’i. Amos wrote many textbooks about his ordeals, including Man With No Title: Turn Lemons into Lemonade, The Popular Amos Tale: The Confront That Released 1,000 Chips and The Energy In You. A tireless advocate for literacy, he was granted a National Literacy Honors Award by President George H.W. Bush. “As a substantial faculty dropout, education was a massive offer to him,” Shawn claims.
At any time the entrepreneur, Amos appeared on “Shark Tank” at age 80 pitching “The Cookie Kahuna,” a small business that sooner or later unsuccessful. In 2017, he launched a GoFundMe asserting he was having difficulties to spend for food stuff, gasoline and rent. However his legacy as a barrier-breaking entrepreneur stays. “He’s a perennial hustler,” claims Shawn. “Everyone wants the excellent comeback. It is a story as previous as time alone.”
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