In the world of snack foods, there is perhaps no better representation of the “American Dream” than the inspiring story of a humble man named Wally Amos. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida and learned from his aunt how to make her celebrated chocolate chip cookies. And while it took him many years, Wally “Famous” Amos learned that if you do what you love, the rewards can be amazing. His Famous Amos cookies surged in popularity throughout the 80s and are now found just about anywhere that cookies are sold.
Wally’s path was an unusual and colorful one. After serving in the Air Force, then earning his college degree in secretarial skills, he landed a job with the prestigious William Morris Agency, eventually becoming a successful talent scout for the firm. To help lure prospective celebrities to the agency, he would bake up batches of his family cookie recipe and use them as his calling card. Soon, word spread about Amos’s baking talents and a group of friends suggested that he trade his talent scout hat for a chef’s hat. The result was the Famous Amos cookie company. He opened a store in Los Angeles in 1975 and his coveted cookies quickly became the talk of the town.
Wally understood a few things about marketing and realized that, based on the popularity of his store, his product could be equally successful in grocery stores. Today, many restaurants also sell their products in supermarkets, but the idea was Wally’s. He also understood the importance of some well-placed publicity. He appeared on a hilarious episode of the hit television series, Taxi, as an apparition who gives some valuable advice to the lovable foreign mechanic Latka Gravis (played brilliantly by Andy Kaufman) who goes into the cookie business, trying to emulate his idol, “da Famous Amos.” One of the best-remembered episodes of the series, it boosted cookie sales tremendously for Amos and made him a recognizable star in his own right.
Famous Amos cookies can still be found in just about every grocery store, although Amos is no longer a part of the company, which is now owned by Kellogg’s. As a result, he is no longer allowed to call his products “Famous Amos” so he is now the head of the Uncle Wally’s Muffin Company, which sells a line of gourmet muffins all across the country. But his smiling face, complete with straw hat and cotton shirt will always conjure up memories of a simple man in the 80s who made a darn good cookie.
If you emptied a few sacks of Famous Amos cookies back in the day, or still keep them stocked in your pantry, we welcome your memories of Famous Amos cookies in our comments section.