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Tuesday, January 18, 2000

  Dorothy Holterman holds up a bottle of her special dressing, 'Grandma's Cool & Zesty Dressing,' at her home in Jefferson City.
Deborah Cote photo
Jefferson City gets taste of Grandma's dressing

By NANCY VESSELL
News Tribune

At the age of 84, Dorothy Holterman of Jefferson City has her first business cards, not to mention her first Web site.

"W-w-w, dot -- now what is it?" she asked her grandson.

With the help of Steve Picker, her grandson, Mrs. Holterman is now selling her homemade salad dressing that's been popular with family and friends for more than 40 years.

Several local grocery and specialty stores began stocking the dressing this week.

It's called Grandma's Cool & Zesty Dressing, which pretty well describes the dressing maker herself.

"Honey, I'm 84, but I'd say I've got another 20 years," she said, and no one doubts it.

Recently, she's been down in the back, probably because she packed in $58 worth of groceries one day after a 1 1/2-hour workout at the gym and a night of jitterbugging at her class reunion.

This great-grandmother is determined to get back into the swing of things, just in time to see the debut of her dressing on store shelves.

The story actually begins in 1933 when the Freeburg girl married Fred Holterman. She was just 18 and went to live on his farm west of Freeburg, where she had to learn to cook everything from scratch -- from soup to cornbread.

"I didn't know anything," she said. Her new husband was particularly fond of his mother-in-law's salad and slaw dressing, but there was no recipe.

Mrs. Holterman said her mother would mix it just before meal time, "using a pinch of this and a dab of that."

Mrs. Holterman wanted to be able to mix up a bottle at a time to use as needed, so she spent years experimenting with different measurements of oil, vinegar, sugar and other spices.

Finally, in 1957, she hit upon the correct amounts and has been making quantities of it ever since. Friends frequently ask her to make some for them.

In about 1965, Mrs. Holterman briefly looked into trying to market the dressing.

"Nobody knew what to do and how to get started," she said. "It would take thousands of dollars, and we just didn't have it."

Then the final ingredient came into the mix -- her ambitious grandson.

Last August, Mrs. Holterman's 84th birthday was being celebrated at the Jefferson City home of her daughter and son-in-law, Rita and Bud Picker, along with her grandchildren Steve Picker and Susan York and her great-grandchildren. Mrs. Holterman's husband had died the previous December.

When Bud Picker mentioned that the dressing really should be marketed, his son, Steve, resolved then to do it.

"I'm pretty motivated. I like to jump right in and get things done," he said.

But, he didn't realize just how much was involved in getting a product from grandma's kitchen to store shelves.

There was FDA approval, business incorporation, a bottler, a nutritional label, a UPC code, product liability insurance, agreements from corporate headquarters -- all that before it even reaches the consumer.

Today, the dressing is bottled by Ozark Bottlers at the Lake of the Ozarks, where it's made in an FDA-approved kitchen. The family worried whether the 15-ounce recipe would translate into 35-gallon vats.

But, when Mrs. Holterman walked into the bottling company, she said, "I smell my dressing."

Of course, she won't divulge the recipe, but she says the secret is to shake it well before pouring it over lettuce, cabbage, vegetables, or even tuna.

Picker hopes to expand the business, going into stores throughout Missouri. As of now, the dressing is available at Schulte's IGA, Hy-Vee, I B Nuts and Fruit, Through the Garden Gate, Apple Core Company, Mega-Market and Moser's Discount Foods.

And, the complete Web site is www.cool-zesty.com.

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