Life Stories: At 80 Years Young, Making Cookies and Reading to Children Keep Wally Amos Going

Photo by By David Markovich, Used by Permission

Wally Amos, Image Used by Permission

Some might say he has a “famous” reputation, but for Wally Amos, life is about living in the moment. Having already founded one of the most recognizable cookie companies on the market, Amos recently became the oldest entrepreneur to present on ABC’s Shark Tank at the age of 80.

Founded in 1975, the Famous Amos brand remains a staple among cookie connoisseurs nationwide. And while Amos eventually sold his company, he’s again on a quest to bring people joy through his cookies.

His new Honolulu-based company, The Cookie Kahuna, aims to recapture the nostalgic taste of the cookies that started it all. Getting to this point in his life wasn’t always easy for Amos.

“I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, so as a black kid in Tallahassee, Florida, [with] parents who are illiterate, in an environment where there were not a lot of activities to do, there was not a lot of nourishment. As I sit here and reflect on that, I didn’t have a lot of options or a lot of opportunities to build a strong future.”

I ask Amos if he can remember any fond moments growing up in a racially-tense environment, but he rejects the idea of reflecting too much upon the past. Instead, Amos chooses to embrace a philosophy that, “Now is the only time there is.”

“My whole perspective on life has changed. I don’t even want to have any old memories, because what am I going to do with them? I’ve thought about them a lot through the years, and that was then, this is now, so I’m so happy to be living today. I am totally in the present. I don’t sit around thinking about the good old days in Tallahassee, Florida, because at that time they weren’t even good. And they weren’t old then either. They were very fresh in my mind.”

Still, Amos can’t help but recall a particular childhood incident that stood out to him. He had come home from school one day and picked up a stick to play with. “A police officer took it from me because I might kill somebody with it, I might hurt somebody with it, I don’t know.”

These days, Amos tells me that selling cookies and reading to children are what keep him going. While he didn’t get a deal on Shark Tank, The Cookie Kahuna has been enjoying success, currently available for purchase at a handful of Hawaiian Costcos and online. A number of news outlets have proclaimed it a “cookie comeback.”

“For 41 years, people have been responding so positively to something I created. I’ve lost companies and did this wrong, did that wrong, and have not had great financial benefit from selling cookies. But there’s something about a chocolate chip cookie that is just so wonderful.”

According to Amos, it’s the simplicity of a cookie that makes the treat universally special. “The ingredients are so basic. They are so easy to make and they bring such joy and to many people such memories, [like] when they were younger and a parent or other relative made cookies for them. It’s supreme satisfaction and gratification over something that’s so small, yet so meaningful.”

When he’s not selling cookies, Amos dedicates his time to the Read it LOUD! Foundation, a campaign he created to raise awareness about the benefits of reading aloud to children.

“Reading to children gives me an excitement, a level of accomplishment, a reason for being more than anything else.”

As our conversation comes to a close, Amos stresses the importance of treasuring every second in life. With the positive impact he continues to make on his community, one can certainly see Amos having done just that.

“Give everything you’ve got. Don’t save anything for later, because there might not be ‘later’. You might die later.”