A midwest dinner table staple

Dorothy Lynch Home Style salad dressing has been a Midwestern staple since the 1940s, when Dorothy and Arthur Lynch managed the St. Paul, Nebraska, Legion Club and Dorothy began zinging up dinner salads with her homemade, sweet and spicy concoction. The tomato-based dressing was such a hit with customers, the Lynchs’ entrepreneurial son Neal soon began bottling and selling it out of his car. 

Recognizing that demand exceeded production capacity, in 1964 the Lynch family sold the recipe to Gordon “Mac” Hull, a recent law school graduate from Columbus, Nebraska. Hull formed Tasty-Toppings, Inc. and expanded production and manufacturing, distributing the popular condiment across the region to grocers and restaurants. 

The headquarters began and remain in Columbus, but in 1978, the factory expanded and moved just down the road to Duncan, where it stands today. Currently employing 25 people, the family company continues to produce the cult favorite orange-hued dressing (affectionately referred to as “Dottie” by ardent fans) in those instantly recognizable curvy bottles.

Marilea Hull took over CEO duties nearly two years ago after several years in finance, most notably at Motorola. As the daughter of the company’s founder, Hull is no stranger to the business, standing at her father’s hip while he mixed the spices, working various jobs in the factory during her teen years, and accompanying the late Mr. Hull on sales calls during family vacations.  

Hull, a Columbus High graduate, cherishes fond memories of those vacations, in which the back of the family van was stuffed with boxes of dressing. “My sister and I would make furniture out of the boxes, building chairs and couches,” she reminisced. Unfortunately, those sales calls ceased over the years as brokers became the standard way for grocers to purchase goods from producers, and today Dorothy Lynch is sold from standard warehouses through known distribution chains.

In her tenure at Motorola, Hull became skilled at adaptability, working in environments rife with change and rolling with modifications in business practices. One recent challenge Hull faced is the change in focus for soybean producers: they are more likely to sell soybeans to fuel makers rather than soybean oil producers (the fuel business is more profitable). As a result, the company is researching alternatives to keep costs reasonable. “With every business comes surprises,” she said.

The thick, creamy tomato-based dressing contains no MSG, cholesterol, or trans fats and is naturally gluten-free. Hull described it as “not French, sweet, spicy… just Dorothy Lynch.” The production process starts when a long-time employee—who has been there since the company’s inception—mixes a huge batch of the secret spice blend. Throughout the production cycle, tomato soup, vinegar, sugar, and other ingredients (all listed on the label per regulations) are blended. Next, the oil and mix are emulsified, and the final product is bottled, labeled, packaged, and shipped. 

The company does not have a test kitchen—recipes shared on its social media channels and printed in its cookbooks come from fans who use the dressing in their own kitchens. “It’s great in dips, as a sauce for chicken wings, a marinade, dipping burgers and sandwiches, or even stirred into soups,” Hull elaborated.

Hull is proud of the brand’s quality and loves hearing stories from consumers who profess their love for “Dottie.” “Everywhere I go, someone knows of Dorothy Lynch—it’s part of the fabric of their lives,” she shared. Recently, an enthusiastic fan of the brand contacted Hull to rave about the product, what it’s meant to their family, and to ask if they sold any swag (Hull was thrilled to mail them a package of goodies). 

According to Hull, Tasty-Toppings, Inc. values being a part of the Columbus community, often donating bottles of product to worthy causes. The company supports the annual Columbus Community Hospital fundraiser and recently donated 3,000 bottles to the Cattleman’s Ball, an event that raises millions of dollars each year for critical cancer research. Collaborations don’t stop with the community—recently the factory hosted a team of students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to facilitate a study on energy efficiency. 

Currently, the company offers just two products, mainly distributed through broker marketplaces, but a few local restaurants do buy directly. Hull and her team are also investigating new product development to meet consumer preferences. For example, modern consumers are cognizant of their sugar intake, so the team is exploring sugar-free options. Other ideas include healthier fat-free or low-fat options, spicier flavor profiles, or premixing the dressing with other products such as Sriracha sauce or ranch spices.  

Hull is thrilled that Dorothy Lynch is part of so many family stories and strives to continue providing quality salad dressings for decades to come. “We want customers to be satisfied and happy with their purchase, enjoying it while creating memories around the dinner table with their families.”

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