Open that bottle...with Marcus Purtzki
It’s been a long journey to success for Made By Marcus founder, Marcus Purtzki, and a story of sheer hard work and determination.
Born in Nanaimo, Purtzki grew up on Vancouver Island in a German household, with home-cooked meals and European family celebrations around the table, but he wasn't accustomed to ice cream. “In our town, we only had Dairy Queen but I was obsessed with blizzards,” he says.
He studied food science at university, eventually gaining a masters degree in human nutrition, and on searching for a nutritionist job, he was hired by a restaurant in New York just as they were awarded a Michelin star. Knowing how to cook, Purtzki ended up working in the kitchen, really enjoying cooking, butchery, and pastry making. Then he fell in love with macarons. “It's only a couple of ingredients, but the perfection behind making a macaron was so inspiring for me, I got super obsessed with it. I was waking up early and going to the restaurant to make macarons.”
Years, and several jobs later, he decided to go out on his own, and in 2009, his wife’s work as a paediatrician brought them to Calgary. Purtzki was still selling macarons but they only use egg whites and he was throwing all the egg yolks away, so he tried using them to make ice cream. It takes a lot of capital for equipment to make ice cream, and Purtzki was working hard from his basement, so eventually had to make a decision to put his time and energy into just one thing. “And that little pivot was a big pivot for us to get rid of the macrons because it was taking so much time,” he says. “I feel like ice cream always will have its day.”
He spent three years trying to build slowly, and it was tough to keep driven - a daily grind that people didn't actually see. “I think they just see that you have a bunch of shops now and you're growing, but that wasn't the case back then. There's been times when I was in that basement, I didn't know if I could do another day,” says Purtzki.
“But never lose sight of your final goal, you look at runners and successful people, and there's a whole other life that they lived before they were successful.”
So what bottle is Purtzki saving and hasn’t opened yet?
“It's a Duckhorn Merlot 2017, and there's a little bit of a backstory. I love wine,” he says. Purtzki, his father, and his brother took a two-week wine trip to Napa Valley, going first to Oregon, renting a car, and driving all the way down and back. “We spent over a week in Napa and Sonoma, and I loved it. I love Calistoga - it's this cute little town.”
In 2007 he took another trip to Napa Valley with his now wife. “But I did something which I would never recommend,” he adds. In Calistoga they hired tandem bikes, but didn’t realize the heat and the distance between wineries.
Their first visit was to Duckhorn Vineyards, “And at that time my wife was exhausted because the sun was getting so hot. I think she just passed out on the lawn,” explains Purtzki. “But I had my sampling of wines and I really liked it.” They had to get the tandem bike home, and his wife had heatstroke. “On a tandem bike, it's dead weight if one person is not pedalling, so I pedalled all the way back just by myself. It sounds terrible, but we went through it and we’re still married,” he smiles.
“So then my wife actually gave me three bottles from Duckhorn for Christmas, and we're going to open this next week,” Purtzki continues. “We're trying to do this thing where we don't really drink during the week, but we save it for the weekend. So now we have a nicer bottle on the weekend, and we get to celebrate a little bit more.”