Famous Cookies, Now Famous Muffins: Wally Is Back
CNBC Special Features Reporter
Faster than a black jack dealer in Las Vegas, the tins are lined, the muffins are baked, and by the tens of thousands packed and shipped out of this state of the art 63,000 square foot bakery in Shirley New York. It's fun to watch, but the surprising part isn't that you can make this many muffins all at once, the surprising part is that this company is here at all.
"We started with nothing, and the core people we started with are still here today.' So says Lou Avignone, the CEO of Uncle Wally's Muffin Company. We are standing next to the muffin line as thousands of blueberry muffins jiggle on by.
"It was hard work, a little luck, and more hard work. But it's all going great now. We are energized every day we step through the door."
Avignone is the muffin messenger, and Wally Amos is the face. Yes, it's that Wally Amos. The one from the cookie business. There was a time when "Famous Amos" was the Kleenex of the cookie industry in terms of branding. If someone said "Famous Amos" everyone knew they meant chocolate chip cookies.
"Famous Amos", the company, sued me. They said they owned the rights to my name, my face, my underwear! The whole thing." Wally Amos is laughing when he says it, but he wasn't laughing so hard when it happened.
"I was stupid, plain and simple. I sold the company and didn't realize I had sold my future along with it."
Football legend George Allen used to say, "The future is now." and that's what Wally Amos believes. After trying to restart a cookie business and spending more time answering legal briefs than baking, he decided to go into the muffin business. Even that wasn't working too well until Lou Avignone came along.
"I love that man," Wally Amos says as he picks a hot muffin off the line.
With Avignone at the business helm, and Amos' energy and branding experience, Uncle Wally's Muffin Company, is on it's way to doing something that hasn't been done--creating a recognizable brand in the muffins. He can't call them "Famous Amos", but he can call them "Uncle Wally's" and he can tell his story on the back of the package. They have nationwide distribution.
"People always used to call to me in airports all the time, want my autograph, 'Hey, Famous' they used to say. I knew we were making progress when people started calling me 'The Muffin Man' in airports. I think we're on our way."
And yes, he even makes a chocolate chip muffin.
"Mike On America" is headed south, North Carolina is our next stop. You can see the Wally Amos story and all the "MOA" offerings on "Power Lunch," from noon to 2p on CNBC. We'll see you along the road.
Pass me that cheesecake muffin will you?
Questions? Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org