Sandie Whittington is an English teacher who, after learning of her gluten intolerance, began to experiment with gluten-free recipes. Her students and family liked her cookies so much that she launched her own line of cookies, Miss Sandie’s Gluten-Free Baked Goods, which can be found in grocery stores, eateries and coffee shops across Memphis. And, when she’s not grading English papers or whipping up her delicious gluten-free baked goods, she turns back to reading and cooking for pleasure or exercising to the cool tunes on her iPod. We are delighted to welcome today’s FACE of the South, Sandie Whittington, a.k.a. “Miss Sandie”!
Tell us where you’re from.
I am a native Memphian. I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and returned to Memphis to begin my teaching career.
Describe your early career. Where did you work, and what were your jobs?
I worked in the food industry all through college and continued to stay involved through catering even after I began teaching for Memphis County Schools (now Shelby County Schools).
What community organizations are you involved in?
I am the faculty sponsor of the Make-A-Wish Club at White Station High School. I have served as a deacon at Idlewild Presbyterian Church, where I’ve also served on various committees. I have been the chair of the Junior League of Memphis Sustainer’s Evening Book Club for the past three years.
Tell us the story behind Miss Sandie’s Gluten-Free Baked Goods. Why did you start the business?
I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance 13 years ago, and I started experimenting with creating recipes. I used friends, family and students as guinea pigs and found that they really liked my baked goods. Many of these samplers encouraged me to start my own business, so I did just that in August of 2015.
So many people, whether they are gluten-intolerant or not, prefer gluten-free products. What are the benefits of choosing to go gluten-free?
My health improved quickly and drastically. I quit having stomach disorders, rashes, headaches, etc. It was so wonderful to finally figure out the culprit for so many of my chronic health issues.
For those who have true intolerance to gluten, life can be pretty hard, even with all the choices now more readily available, from products like yours to gluten-free options in restaurants. Have you always battled that yourself?
Yes! When I attend social events, there’s rarely any food that I can eat on the table. I rarely cheat as the consequences are never worth the cheat. I also found that many of the gluten-free products sold in stores had a lot of ingredients that I didn’t want in my system. I am very proud that my cookies and breads have only six or seven ingredients and no preservatives.
Where are your products sold?
My cookies are sold at Miss Cordelia’s, High Point Grocery, SuperLo Foods of Spottswood, The Curb Market Crosstown, City Silo Table + Pantry and Otherlands. I also take personal orders. I have been given the green light to sell my products in a few other stores. I am always thinking about where can I sell my products next.
What are your hobbies, and how do you unwind?
When I can find time to take a break from my English teacher grading, I love to read. I read books from many different genres. I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. I exercise at Rhodes College as often as possible to unwind.
Where’s the first place you take an out-of-towner when they come to visit you in Memphis?
I really love to take visitors to see lots of the beautiful neighborhoods in Memphis.
What’s your favorite Memphis attraction and why?
I grew up in Central Gardens and, after having lived there for the past 28 years, we moved east in August. I really miss all of midtown and often find myself gravitating back to Cooper Young and Overton Square. I am a midtown gal at heart!
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be…
To get by on four hours of sleep!
What one word describes you?
What inspires you?
My husband Tom and I have had four children. Matthew is 27, Graham is 25, and Olivia Grace is 22. Alexandria, our firstborn child, was diagnosed with leukemia when she was 21 months. She fought a valiant battle, but passed away six years after her diagnosis. So, when I see adults or children battling a life-threatening disease, I am inspired by the tenacity it takes to battle an illness and stay positive at the same time. My daughter Alexandria inspired me so much during her brief time in our lives.
What’s your best piece of advice?
Be steadfast and always hold fast to your dreams!
What are three lighthearted or frivolous things you can’t live without?
Chocolate, my eyebobs reading glasses — I adore them! — and my iPod fully loaded with fabulous music.
Thank you, Sandie! To learn more about Sandie’s booming business, visit Miss Sandie’s Gluten-Free Baked Goods Facebook page.
Thanks to Micki Martin for the fabulous photos of Sandie!
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