by Susanna Parker
Sophia Maroon has known for years that her mother’s salad dressing recipes were something special. A hit with everyone who tried them, her brother even said they were good enough to sell. Sophia laughed it off as a joke, but the idea stuck with her. After all, so many commercial dressings were bland, replacing quality olive oil with cheap substitutes, and full of unpronounceable ingredients.
Sophia wanted a healthy dressing with familiar ingredients, produced simply, locally, and in a sustainable manner. She wanted her salad dressing to be as healthy as the veggies it adorns. Sophia realized that her mother’s dressing was the solution to all these problems, and decided to test out her brother’s theory.
With advice from friends and family (plus a good helping of serendipity) Sophia got Dress It Up Dressing up and running. In its ninth month, Sophia’s mission is simple — to make a product she’s proud of, and to ensure that every salad is dressed to perfection.
A recent addition to the Bethesda Green Business Incubator, Sophia and Dress It Up Dressing are committed to sustainability. Dress It Up Dressing is inextricably tied to the environment and to the farmers that grow the produce the dressing tops, so there is a concern for the environment in every decision made. The olive oil that makes up the primary ingredient is sourced from Mediterranean farmers — though it travels farther, its environmental impact is actually less than that of olive oil produced in California.
To reduce Dress It Up’s travel footprint in other areas, the production facility is within 150 miles of the initial market areas of Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City. And though Sophia, like any small business owner, is concerned about the efficiency of the production process, she is “more motivated by the green line than the bottom line.”
Sophia is looking forward to making Dress It Up Dressing even more sustainable. The first goal is to transition the dressing to a fully organic product. The next step will be finding a green manufacturing facility, one that is LEED certified and powered by renewable energy. The final goal requires the cooperation of the local food industry — Sophia wants Dress It Up Dressing to be part of a local food hub, an organization that connects farmers with local and regional markets, helping the community to buy local and increase its sustainability. Maryland does not yet have a food hub, but Sophia looks to GrowFood Carolina for inspiration and motivation.
Dress It Up Dressing is available in four vinaigrettes; Apple Cider, Chocolate, Champagne, and Red Wine. If you’re debating which one to try first, keep in mind Sophia’s advice: “There are only four varieties, who says it has to be a choice?” Dress It Up Dressing is available at Whole Foods, MOMs Organic Market, Roots, Stachowski’s Deli, Bethesda Co-Op, The Organic Butcher in McLean, the Central Farm Markets, and online at www.dressitupdressing.com. When asked what has been her biggest accomplishment to date, Sophia says “Honestly, every day I get to work on this project feels like a success.”
Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.