Chipwich inventorRichard LaMotta

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A serial businessman, LaMotta couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do when he grew up. It took him 12 years to get his college degree (in economics, from Brooklyn College), and he had jobs as a video and sound engineer, and later got a law degree. He never practiced law, but went from one business to another, until the 1970s when a friend needed help starting an ice cream parlor. That business eventually failed too, but LaMotta remembered an idea from when he was a child and invented the “Chipwich” — a “sandwich” made from two chocolate chip cookies with ice cream in the middle. After making 25,000 of the treats, he sent 60 street-cart vendors out to sell them on May 1, 1982. Even though they sold for a fairly steep (at the time!) $1, they were all gone in a few hours. Sales quickly ramped up to 40,000 a day. Imitators quickly popped up. “That’s the way it works,” a competitor told a reporter. “One guy comes up with a good idea, and everybody rips him off. It’s the American way.” But that didn’t seem to hurt LaMotta: that summer, sales of the Chipwich were 200,000 a day. By 2002, he had sold a billion of them, and sold out to Canada’s Coolbrands. Eventually, Nestle bought the brand — to shut it down, LaMotta’s daughter says, since it competed too strongly with their own copycat product. LaMotta died May 11 at his home in New York. He was 67.

From This is True for 16 May 2010