Lillie’s of Charleston found success through what started as love for food and family. Tracey Richardson and her sister, Kellye Wicker, found their niche when they continued what their father began many years ago in his aunt’s kitchen.
The early 1950s in Charleston had the two sisters’ father, Hank Tisdale, cooking with his relatives. During the summer months, Hank would spend time in the kitchen with his Aunt Lillie. That kitchen was a place of laughter and good times.
“Aunt Lillie represented a generation that taught kin how to cook with love. No matter who came to visit, they never left her house feeling unwanted, unloved or hungry,” shared Richardson. “It was there that the Lillie’s of Charleston recipes were born.”
In 1985, Hank opened his own restaurant, and customers came in droves for his sauces.
“In 2001, Kellye and I began bottling those sauces, and now they are sold and consumed internationally,” beamed Richardson.
Lillie’s of Charleston has become a great family success, and best of all, the two ladies have found that success with the blessing of their father.
“Our father is retired, but he is still curious about how things are going. He is excited about the business and is often our sounding board,” Richardson continued.
The shop is the epitome of homegrown. Their roots are local, and their products can be found in almost all Lowcountry grocery stores and markets. One bestseller, their Finger Leek-en Mustard BBQ Sauce, combines a hickory taste with the sweet, tangy mix of mustard, honey and molasses. Another favorite — and probably Lillie’s of Charleston’s most popular — is their traditional Hot Sauce, aptly named Lowcountry Loco. And fans have coined the term “sneaky heat” for referring to the award-winning Hab Mussy Mustard BBQ Sauce. This sauce has added heat, while maintaining the sweet, tangy flavor foodies look forward to.
Customers love the ease of ordering directly from the website, including U.S. service members working around the globe.
“We are always thrilled when we fill an order with an APO or FPO address,” said Richardson, who attributes much of the success to professional organizations, such as the National Minority Supplier Diversity Council (NMSDC).
“Being a part of professional organizations allows us to get a seat at the table,” she concluded.
*Richardson would like to thank Regis Byrd of Sleek Reflections Salon in West Ashley for styling her hair for the photo.
By Stacy Domingo