East Falls is about to become Santa’s favorite stop as the Famous 4th Street Cookie Co. is moving to Ridge Avenue.
Founders David and Janie Auspitz have sold the 30-year-old bakery to restaurateur Brian Phillips and his wife, Tina, and lawyer Michael Untermeyer.
While the retail store at the 12th Street entrance of Reading Terminal Market will remain, the bakery will move from South Fourth Street in Queen Village to 4177-85 Ridge Ave, the former home of a state liquor store.
“We wanted somewhere that had a loading zone and a better layout for the operation,” said Phillips, a 40-year food industry veteran. He started in the business as a teenager working at Reading Terminal’s 12th Street Cantina, which his cousins owned. He now owns and operates the Copabanana bar and grill in University City.
“It’s not a business that is cut out for everybody,” Phillips said. “But I have such a passion for it. I love dealing with people.”
So does his longtime friend and now business partner Untermeyer, who worked as an assistant district attorney under Lynne Abraham and unsuccessfully ran for Philly’s District Attorney seat in 2009.
Now with his hands in real estate transactions, Untermeyer heard that the Auspitz family was looking to selling the business.
When Untermeyer proposed the idea of buying the company, Phillips originally declined.
“I didn’t have any interest in owning another business, especially a retail business,” Phillips said. “But then I thought about the Famous 4th St. Cookie and how I have a long history at the Reading Terminal Market and how it’s absolutely the best cookie I’ve ever had in my life.”
“It’s a Philadelphia institution,” he added.
In the early 1980s, Janie Auspitz began baking chocolate chip cookies from her own recipe — they turned out plump, moist, chewy, and best of all, chocolately. Center City and South Philly customers demanded more, prompting the flavors to grow to a dozen including peanut butter, oatmeal raisin and white chocolate macadamia nut.
The couple behind the cookie company has decided to sell for a sale price not disclosed. David will remain with the company for two years. The Reading Terminal location manager Cathy Burns and her staff will also stay.
“People in East Falls are chomping at the bit,” said Gina Snyder, executive director of the East Falls Development Corporation.
The organization had been aggressively searching to have the vacant storefront occupied. When Snyder heard that Untermeyer had purchased the building for the Famous 4th St. Cookie Co., she was thrilled.
“It’s going to make everybody happy and it’s going to smell really good,” Snyder said. “You can’t go wrong with cookies.”
In her discussions with Untermeyer, Snyder said he mentioned improving the façade, possibly adding a new design.
“When a building owner runs a business, it tends to be a good thing for the district because they can take care of their property in the best way,” Snyder said.
“I see this vision of expanding the business and having even more people enjoy the cookies,” Phillips said.
That expansion includes growing online and mail-order business, as well as adding a retail outlet to the Ridge Avenue location.
“We’ll probably sell coffee and hot chocolate,” Phillips said. “And we’ve got some great ideas for new flavors — mint chocolate chip is one of them.”
Phillips estimates that the bakery will be up and running in nine months.
“The Auspice family’s legacy will carry on with our family,” Phillips said.