As the owner of Water Valley's Delta Grind, Julia Tatum knows the secret to a good bag of cornmeal. But she also knows the key to a playful fall outfit.

By Betsy Cribb
August 20, 2020
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Julia Tatum at her Water Valley, Mississippi, production facility
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Julia Tatum never planned to run a one-woman cornmill. “I was a graphic design major at Ole Miss, so I took a job right out of college working at a marketing firm in Oxford,” says Julia. But sitting at a computer all day proved uninspiring, and she missed getting her hands dirty. Then, in 2016, her cousin decided to sell Delta Grind, a stone-ground grits and cornmeal operation based in nearby Water Valley. For Julia, buying the mill—a place where she could roll up her sleeves and get to work with her hands—felt like the right move. “I couldn’t let it go,” she says. “I took over and ran with it.” Four years later, she’s nearly doubled the company’s sales, shipping fresh-ground cornmeal, grits, polenta, and masa all over the country.

Though many of her restaurant partners are in the South, Delta Grind products are on menus as far away as California and New York. “It’s been a wild, crazy learning experience,” says Julia. “Sometimes, when my mail carriers come to the mill, they can’t believe that it’s just a girl out here working with all these machines. It’s cool. I like using a hands-on approach and learning how everything works.”

While she usually keeps things casual and easy at Delta Grind (think comfy running shorts, T-shirts, and sneakers), Julia’s out-of-office style is a little more fun and freewheeling. Here, the young entrepreneur talks statement earrings, Cher, and her low-key skin-care routine.

Style Icons: Then and Now

“It’s hard to nail down the main person I turn to for inspiration, but when I was growing up, the one who stood out to me was probably Cher. My mom let me skip school when I was 12, and we went to Atlanta to see her in concert. I swear she looked up at me even though we were in the nosebleed section! I was obsessed with her. I enjoy looking back at old photos of the seventies too. The style was simple but still very expressive. And I’ve always loved that Julia Roberts look—when she’s dressed in high-waisted jeans with a white top and wearing her hair curly. Every day, I strive for something simple, comfortable, and chic.”

The Accessory That Makes Me Feel Like a Million Bucks

“I love to wear flashy earrings. I sell Delta Grind at holiday markets, so a lot of my jewelry comes from the artists there. I also enjoy statement earrings from Anthropologie and J.Crew—the big, fun ones. I get excited about a nice pair of shoes too. They’ve got to be comfy though. I prefer booties and sneakers, like the slip-ons from Vans or Vince.”

My Go-To One-Piece Wonders

“I love jumpsuits and maxi dresses. A lot of people will ask, ‘Why are you so dressed up?’ But I don’t wear much makeup and don’t do a lot to my hair, so to me, it’s easy. I don’t have to wear pants!”

“I love wedges, just because they’re comfortable,” says Julia, who is 5'10". “I used to hate it when people would stare at me for my height, but I’ve learned to embrace it.”
| Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Favorite Skin-Care Finds

“I’m almost 30 and until recently hadn’t really been putting anything on my face, but now I’ve gotten into a routine at night. My trusted products are the Beautycounter Countermatch Recovery Sleeping Cream and the Counter+ Overnight Resurfacing Peel . I do the peel maybe once a week and use the cream every night and feel a thousand times better.”

My Makeup Staples

“I didn’t even start using foundation until three years ago. My friend ordered me all this makeup, and I thought, ‘Okay, what do I do with it?’ I just don’t like how heavy a lot of it feels on my face and don’t want anything that’s too crazy, but I can’t live without mascara! I love a good classic, like L’Oréal’s version, and also really like Tarte’s Shape Tape Concealer .”

Mama’s Best Beauty Advice (That I Don’t Really Take)

“My mom told me to never leave home without a tube of lipstick. She keeps hers in the car and puts some on before getting out. She always says, ‘You need some color on your lips!’ I have never been a lipstick person, but I know that my mom always feels better when she’s wearing hers.”

A Favorite Quote

“Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.”
—John Wesley

Around Town with Julia

Where to eat, shop, and play in Oxford, MS

  1. Lost Pizza Co.
  2. Volta Taverna
  3. Chicory Market
  4. Uptown Coffee
  5. Neilson's Department Store
  6. South Campus Rail Trail
  7. The Library
  8. Saint Leo Lounge
  9. The Grove