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Amy Berg may be visually impaired, but her sense of taste is 100 percent intact.
Her popular Sunset Park baking business, Amy’s Cookies, distributes to many of the top cafes and gourmet shops in the city — although her road to success wasn’t always so sweet.
Berg was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa — a gradual degeneration of the retina — in 1983, shortly after graduating from Pratt Institute with a degree in, of all things, photography.
“Needless to say, it forced me to rethink things,” said Berg.
She was particularly rattled by a statistic she kept hearing — that only 20 percent of visually impaired people were actually employed.
“That’s when I realized the only solution was to start my own business,” said Berg. “I had experimented with baking before, and there wasn’t nearly as much competition back then, so it seemed like the way to go.”
Berg eschewed fancy flavor combinations for straight up interpretations on beloved classics — Viennese crescents, cocoa wafers, ginger cookies, and key lime sandwiches — made with top-quality ingredients like Valrhona chocolate and European-style creamery butter.
Once her small batch, artisanal creations caught the attention of the buyers at Dean & DeLuca, Berg was well on her way.
“I called them every week for three months until they agreed to place an order!” she remembers.
Amy’s Cookies are still a hot item at the esteemed gourmet purveyor all these years later, and popular Brooklyn storefronts such as Blue Apron Foods, Brooklyn Commune, Greene Grape and Tazza Café have since followed suit.
“I come to Blue Apron all the time for my Amy’s Cookies fix,” said Sandra Georgio of Prospect Heights. “They’re simple — no bells and whistles — but sometimes you just want a perfect chocolate chip.”
Berg says that the secret to her success is making beautiful cookies that taste good.
“It sounds obvious, but that’s really the key, along with consistency,” she said.
Berg’s retinitis has forced her to change her role within the company since then — from baking into sales — but she’s still the driving force behind Amy’s Cookies.
“I work on the website now, and we’re building a little café which should be ready soon,” said Berg. “But the truth is, I’ve had to delegate responsibility and admit I need help — which is tough for any business owner, with or without a disability!”
Amy’s Cookies [225 34th St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Sunset Park, (718) 797-1513]. For information, visit www.amyscookies.com.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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