Within two months of starting Dirty T Tamarindo, Alana Solis quit her day job. She knew her new venture would be a success.
“I instantly knew it was going to be big — that’s why I just went for it,” she says.
During her first year in business, she worked long 16-hour days, tucked inside the warehouse where her chamoy-covered candies are made. Now a year and a half later, her candies are sold at 72 stores around Tucson and she’s getting ready to open a brick-and-mortar for the business she built with her tía’s chamoy recipe that dates back to the ‘80s.
Dirty T Tamarindo’s spices and chamoy coat popular sweets like gummy bears, dried mango slices and Skittles. Solis’ favorite are the now-discontinued Watermelon Rings (though they may make a seasonal return) and the fan favorite are the Gushers. The brick-and-mortar, 1211 W. St. Marys Road, is slated to open 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26 with vendors, mariachi and live mural painting as part of a grand opening party.
“I saw a lot of people — their recipes from what I’ve seen on TikTok and all that — they just put something together or look up a YouTube video. But mine is an actual recipe from my tía,” she says, adding that the recipe adds to the authenticity of the business.
Before Dirty T Tamarindo, Solis helped launch home bakery Pau’s Pan Dulce, igniting a flame inside her. She realized how much she enjoyed building a business and connecting with the community along the way. She was tired of working her two jobs — she cooked for 10 years and did other odd jobs in maintenance and retail.
“I’ve been making chamoy since I was in diapers. I can put two and two together and make it happen, too.”
Solis is Latina and part of the LGBTQ+ community — uplifting marginalized people and businesses is part of her goal — along with helping put “Tucson on the map.”
“I feel like there’s still a lot of history to be made,” she says, mentioning representation of marginalized people in political positions. “I just want to be a part of that, even in the candy community.”
“As an LGTBQ+ Latina with immigrant parents, this is a dream come true,” she said on Instagram, announcing the news of the brick-and-mortar. “Proud to say I’m from Tucson and I can’t wait to provide the barrio with more authentic Mexican treats.”
Although her sweets are stocked at spots around Tucson, Solis gets calls daily from people asking if they can walk into a shop somewhere and order from her big roster of candy — they're disappointed when the answer is no. The brick-and-mortar, which most recently housed Barber Supply Co., was the next natural step.
“The west side is so neglected sometimes — I feel like it just made sense,” she says.
The brick-and-mortar will serve Tosti-Locos, paletas and possibly an even bigger variety of candy. Solis is also working to create four more flavors of her popular rim dips.
Beyond the dozens of stores and the soon-to-open brick-and-mortar, you can also order Solis’ candy for pickup at her south-side warehouse (2717 S. Sixth Ave.), which is where all the magic happens, or you can buy the candy online.
Part of Dirty T Tamarindo’s success is due to Solis’ constant involvement in the community, participating in countless markets and collaborating with restaurants like Noodies, pairing her spicy candies atop soft-serve gelato.
“I was born and raised here and I went to a lot of middle schools and high schools here and I feel like I know the community,” she says. “Other states and cities I’ve been in — I don’t think I could be my authentic self there. I couldn’t even imagine trying to build this there.
“Here, we are very attached to our roots so people feed off of that. I feel like we’re very connected here.”