West Bend, WI – Perky’s Old Fashioned is a ready to drink product with the booze in the bottle made locally in Wisconsin, and available at 400+ outlets across Wisconsin. The label on the bottle features a photo of sweet grandma Perky, who at 83 years old is fast becoming the face of a brand that is turning her into a social media starlet.
“My real name is Marlene,” said Perky. “When I was growing up, I was about 4 years old at the time, my favorite uncle called me Molly Perkins; she was a radio personality at the time.”
Eventually the Molly was dropped, and Perkins was shortened to Perky by a boy in town who had a hard time pronouncing Perkins and the name Perky stuck.
Perky’s husband Wally chimed in. “I told one of my friends I was going out with Marlene Geldnich and he said he had not heard of her. This was small town Slinger. Then I said Perky, and he lit up and said, ‘Well I know her.'”
Growing up in Slinger, Perky worked after school at her father’s Sinclair filling station. “I would go to school in the morning, come home, change my clothes and go to the filling station until dark,” she said.
Those were the days when full service meant the attendant would lift the hood, check the oil, clean the windshield, and fill the tank with petrol.
Perky and Wally met at a dance at Zivko’s Ballroom in Hartford, WI. They married at St. Peter Church in Slinger in 1962. The couple settled in outside West Bend and helped run the Gundrum family farm for about 40 years before settling into retirement.
Perky and Wally recalled feeding calves, picking stones, working in the 4-stall milking parlor, and all the while having their collie “Queenie” by their side.
No longer do they get up before sunrise to start their day. “Forty years was a good run, but a lot of work,” said Perky.
Their home now is on the east shore of Lake Winnebago. Some treasures of their past decorate the walls in the lower level. Aerial farm photos are mixed in with black-and-white wedding pictures.
A yellow landline phone with a cord that could stretch the length of the room hangs next to the doorframe.
The original Perky’s recipe was crafted in a kitchen on the farm by Wally’s dad Gilbert Gundrum. “He liked to mix stuff up,” said Wally. “When I was young and at home yet, dad used to have a glass pitcher where he made himself martinis; then he started making an old fashioned with the liquor and bitters and the sugar in a bottle ready to drink.”
Long before a “mixologist” was a thing, Gilbert was starting down a path that would blossom into a business four generations later.
Gilbert died at 90 in 2007 and the torch of the old-fashioned mix was passed down through family tradition and holiday gatherings.
“We’d stir them up on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas… you name it,” said Perky. “They were so good with just the right ingredients and so simple… we just added the soda.”
In the infancy of the homemade old-fashioned mix, the Gundrum’s used old Southern Comfort bottles and mix up a batch and give it away as gifts.
“We didn’t do anything special with it, just gave it to family and friends as a gift and they loved it,” said Perky. “It didn’t get famous until the kids took over.”
She said, they give it the Perky’s name after asking permission.
“I said sure,” said Perky about the request. “It made me really proud they would use my name.”
Click HERE for a map of locations to find Perky’s on the shelf
Perky’s Old Fashioned Mix has been in circulation a little over two years now. “My grandson Josh and his dad Lyle and our daughter Karen are the ones working on the business,” said Perky. “I got a call when they hit 100 stores; now they’re in 400 locations across Wisconsin.”
Asked if she’s getting a piece of the action, Perky said, “I do not want anything. I just pray that they are successful.”