Wally "Famous" Amos: A Champion Of Cookies, Characters And Literacy

Wally "Famous" Amos: A Champion Of Cookies, Characters And Literacy

If you thought Wally "Famous" Amos was a fictional character used to sell cookies, you couldn't be further from the truth.

Wally Amos is a living, breathing bastion of all things cookies and literacy. Yep, you read it: Literacy. Perhaps the most recognizable face in cookies (and has been since he launched Famous Amos on March 10, 1975) has been a Hawaii resident since 1977, and "has never have had a bad experience the entire time I've lived here. I just love everything about Hawaii," said Amos.

After raising $350,000 from investors, Amos and his wife Christine opened Chip & Cookie in Kailua on August 31, 2005, across the street from Lanikai Juice.

In a day and age where information, rules and regulations bombard children from all sides, Amos takes a nealy forgotten approach to communicating, and he does it well. Every Saturday afternoon Amos sits in "the library" of his store and reads to children.

"I start by asking the kids which book they want me to read. We choose the books together," Amos professes. "Sometimes a kid walks right in the store, goes to the shelf, and hands me a book. Other times, if the kids are shy and I have to pick a book off the shelf, I ask permission to read it. It's all up to the kids."

Last week a long time friend of Amos' -- Danish actress and spokesperson for the Hans Christian Anderson Foundation, Susse Wold -- stopped by the store to read a tale or two.

Amos, who first came to Hawaii in 1954 when he was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, has been involved with adult literacy for 27 years. His evolving "Read It Loud!" campaign has taken hold in various cities across America, including Savannah, Georgia, where he works hand-in-hand with students and faculty at the Savannah College of Art and Design. There, students help create public service announcements that air on local television, as well as design brochures for Amos.

Amos' wife Christine (whom he met when she was a TWA flight attendant) originally created the Chip & Cookie characters (who sit reading a book in the store logo) in 1992 to give life and a recognizable face to the cross over cookie-literacy campaign. A master print-maker and artist, Christine used to read to her children when they were still in the womb, as well as when they were infants. Amos says confidently that it is the reason his daughter Sarah is such a voracious reader today.

The cookie man has also seen his share of disappointment. On March 10, 1989, he signed a termination agreement between he and the Famous Amos cookie brand, the result of a 16-month court case versus a venture capital group that sued Amos for his name and likeness. The cookie empire he built was no longer his to sell.

"I always knew the cookies were going to serve a greater cause. That's always been my thing. They were and are really just a service vehicle for me to promote literacy," said Amos.

Now, the 7o year old Amos sells delicious, fresh-baked mini-cookies by the pound and reads to children once a week.

"I've wanted my own store for a quite a while. This has been a long time in the making," said Amos.

Chip & Cookie (609 Kailua Road; 808 261-1811) sells pounds of cookies for $9.89 per pound. Readings start at 2 p.m. every Saturday, and last approximately hour. Visitors are not obligated to buy any sweets.

Visit www.chipandcookie.com or www.wallyamos.com