From her kitchen to stores across the country, Tiffany Denson finds success with line of dressings, marinades
By Susan Swagler
When her family faced financial difficulties, Opelika native Tiffany Denson did what generations of strong, resourceful women have done. She went into her kitchen and made something delicious that she could sell.
Denson and her family moved to Birmingham in 2006 when her husband, Rush, bought a real estate business. Tiffany (“Tiff” to anyone she meets) was busy raising their young children and making a home in their new city. She quickly became known among neighbors and friends for her gifts of homemade salad dressing at Christmas. Soon, people were asking for her dressing throughout the year, and Denson would accommodate them – as long as they provided their own jars. “I would come home to Mason jars stuffed in my mailbox,” she said.
By December 2009, times had gotten tough in the real estate business. “I had to start finding little ways to make some money,” Denson said. She was working four jobs (“jobettes,” she called them) when a neighbor suggested that Denson sell her signature dressing, Sweet Garlic vinaigrette, at his clothing store in Mountain Brook. “Within about seven or eight months,” she said, “I was selling 700 or 800 jars a month at that one little clothing store.”
During Christmas of 2010, many more people than her neighbors received Denson’s dressing as gifts: She sold more than 1,700 jars at The Pants Store. Soon after, Western Supermarkets called her asking to carry the dressing in its stores, and Denson made the big decision to take her homemade product to another level.
Denson and her family since have moved back home to Opelika. She’s expanded her line to include two additional flavors – Chipotle vinaigrette and Asian Sesame vinaigrette – to go with the original Sweet Garlic vinaigrette with more on the way, and now her products are on grocery store shelves throughout the Southeast.
T.Lish is not simply a salad dressing, nor is it merely a marinade. “T.Lish is an all-natural, modern pantry staple,” Denson said. “I really wanted to create something that was super versatile … something that can create great, healthy meals for your family.”
This speaks to the everyday practicality of this Alabama maker: She’s still a busy mom with a family to feed each night, and she wants them to eat food that’s good for them.
None of us has time to make different meals for different people at our tables, she said. “But let’s face it, sometimes we have to alter things. I can make a bunch of different things, we can dump them all together and we can add a great sauce or a drizzle and everyone’s happy.”
She demonstrated with some chicken; a bowl of cooked noodles; fresh lettuce, cilantro, shredded carrots and sliced scallions and bell peppers; and a bottle of her Asian Sesame vinaigrette. She marinated the chicken in the vinaigrette and then cooked it in a cast iron skillet. She whisked one part smooth peanut butter with two parts vinaigrette to make a sauce, and then tossed all but a little of that sauce with the noodles.
Suddenly, she had three different dinners: a colorful salad topped with chicken and drizzled with Asian Sesame vinaigrette; sesame noodles tossed with chicken and fresh veggies; and chicken lettuce wraps with sesame-peanut sauce. (These recipes and more are on her website.)
“This whole company was not birthed out of a dream,” Denson said. “It was birthed out of necessity. But I’ve always had a passion for cooking; I’ve always loved entertaining. So God took the very gifts he gave me and used them to begin the company.”
The current three salad dressings – Sweet Garlic vinaigrette, Chipotle vinaigrette and Asian Sesame vinaigrette – come in 12-ounce bottles, sell for about $6 per bottle and are available at Piggly Wiggly and Publix grocery stores in our area as well as several other chains in other parts of the southeast. They also are available online at Denson’s website, www.tlish.com.