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January 7, 2006

Making Whoopies

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Out of Richmond, Maine comes Amy Bouchard and her company, Isamax Snacks, to become what may be the world's largest producer of whoopie pies.

Never heard of whoopie pies?

Join the club — I hadn't either until I read the December 26 Associated Press story in the New York Times.

Turns out whoopie pies are a New England regional specialty, akin to the Moon Pies — chocolate–and–marshmallow sandwiches dipped in chocolate — found in the South.

What's a whoopie pie?

It's a cream–filled cake sandwich (above).

When Isamax began just over a decade ago, its sales the first year amounted to $1,900.

This year they're expected to reach $1,000,000.

Here's the Times story.

    One Bakery Owner's Dream: Taking Whoopies to the World

    Just over a decade ago, Amy Bouchard drew on her love for baking to create a business in her kitchen making whoopie pies.

    In those days, she would crank out three at a time.

    Now, Ms. Bouchard churns out 5,000 to 7,000 of the sweet Wicked Whoopies each day, shipping the cream-filled cake sandwiches nationwide and beyond.

    The business has outgrown its bakery in a converted fishing goods shop and will double in size when it moves to a new site in January.

    "I can't believe how many whoopie pies we can pump out of this place. It's like a whoopie explosion," Ms. Bouchard, her apron blotched with dark brown batter, said during a break from the pre-Christmas production frenzy.

    It is indeed tight quarters for the dozen or so workers at Bouchard company, Isamax Snacks, where the sweet aroma of baking cakes permeates the air.

    Big mixers whip up snowy filling, while a baker fills trays with batter and workers wheel carts to a giant oven that holds 48 trays.

    Other employees hand-wrap the finished product in cellophane.

    Ms. Bouchard and her husband, David, both former shipyard workers, took a traditional New England treat and ran with it.

    Now they are at a full sprint, trying to keep pace with orders.

    Devotees, Ms. Bouchard says, include Oprah Winfrey.

    Sales have mushroomed from $1,900 a decade ago to $1 million this year.

    Ms. Bouchard estimates the latter figure will double by next year.

    Her husband acknowledges that the pies are still something of a regional culinary curiosity.

    "We're trying to change that," said Mr. Bouchard, who hopes that the larger bakery will lead to a sales push beyond New England.

    The Bouchards' success story began after Ms. Bouchard left her job at Bath Iron Works so she could be home with her young children.

    Ms. Bouchard, who loved to bake, wanted a way to make money at home, and her brother told her she ought to sell her whoopie pies.

    The business was born and christened Isamax from her two children's names, Isabella, now 13, and Maxx, 19.

    Ms. Bouchard was soon filling her kitchen oven with whoopie pie batter, delivering orders with her children in tow and keeping her earnings in a jar.

    At one point, as the stack of orders grew, she burned out several mixers in a week.

    Gradually, she expanded the selection of flavors, going from traditional chocolate devil's food with vanilla cream filling to cake flavors like strawberry, pumpkin and oatmeal cookie, and fillings with peanut butter cream and raspberry.

    "I didn't invent the whoopie pie, but I like to take something and make it better, then make it great," Ms. Bouchard said.

    New England-style whoopie pies are a cousin to the Moon Pies found in the South, cookie-and-marshmallow sandwiches dipped in chocolate.

    While Ms. Bouchard has competitors in her region, she believes her business is the first with a bakery devoted solely to whoopie pies.

    A big break came in 2003 when Wicked Whoopies were featured on Ms. Winfrey's Web site and TV show.

    "The phone would not stop ringing," Ms. Bouchard said.

    National magazines and regional television programs also have shown interest in the product, whose suggested retail price is $1.39.

    The bulk of Isamax's buyers are small stores and coffee shops, although bigger buyers like the Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain, based in Maine, stock them.

    Distributors deliver them throughout New England and New York.

    Mail orders have come in from all over the country. Ms. Bouchard said orders had been sent to Japan, among other countries.

    Sherri Lawton of Parkville, Md., said she ordered a couple of cartons and a five-pound Jumbo Wicked Whoopie cake for a holiday party for 145 people.

    "Everything I put out was gone," she said. But she admitted hoarding a few slices for herself.

    "They really bring me to my knees," she said.

********************

You didn't think I'd leave you like this, did you?

You know I'm not that kind of guy.

Here's the company's website, where you can read all about how they got started and stuff.

They now offer 20 different flavors and varieties, by the way.

But if you just want to cut to the chase and order some then by all means don't bother with the above but simply click here and voila — you're in the online store.

Whoopie!

January 7, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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Comments

Wicked whoopies are the best thing God could have given us. Amy = God.

Posted by: Amanda | Nov 30, 2006 10:59:10 PM

Hmmm. It reminds me of Gus Kahn - and Eddie Cantor. And Michelle Pfeiffer slithering around on a piano - and Diana Krall too (though not in a movie). Rosemary Clooney. And, of course, my personal favorite, Louis Armstrong's rendition of "Making Whoopee."

Posted by: Shawn Lea | Jan 7, 2006 9:12:05 PM

This article needs to be read with Barry White, or Isaac Hayes playing loud.

Doesn’t know about making the whoopie… tisk, tisk. : )

Posted by: Neosamurai85 | Jan 7, 2006 6:34:08 PM

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