Monday Mar 05 2012
From the Bay to the ‘Hills,’ Purple Place owner enjoys life
By: Menka Belgal, Telegraph Correspondent
Denise Hountalas and her husband Mike own the Purple Place Bar and Grill, a well-known landmark in El Dorado Hills. They have three sons. Besides trying to manage the house, kids’ homework responsibilities, volunteering in their schools and driving them to all their extracurricular activities, she handles a wide variety of functions at the Purple Place. The majority of the work she does is fundraising, marketing, and hiring, along with filling in as manager every so often. What were you doing earlier? I worked for IBM out of college then handled corporate sales for a furniture company. When Mike and I got married, I joined him in the family business where I ran the sales and catering department at the Cliff House in San Francisco. I restructured the sales department and doubled revenue each year for multiple years. What are some interesting things that have happened to you? I was on planning committees before Lakeview was built and involved with developing ways to grow the school. I implemented the All-Day Kindergarten Program, the first one in the area at Lakeview. I was able to start the Parent/Teacher Organization at Lakeview and served as president for three years. In those three years, we raised an unbelievable amount of money for the school to help the children. What are your favorite places you’ve traveled to? When I was younger I spent a lot of my youth traveling with my parents and sister and brother. I have been to Central America, Europe, and Asia, and my favorite trip was to Tahiti with my husband. Mike and I went shark feeding in Tahiti on our honeymoon. We try to fit in scuba diving wherever we vacation. Do you give back to the community? Giving back to the community is one of our core values. Living and working in the same community has afforded us many opportunities to support many local charitable organizations. We regularly hold fundraisers in our restaurant where a large percentage of the proceeds of food and beverage go toward a cause. A few of the more recent fundraisers we have held are for diabetes, breast cancer, leukemia and lymphoma, a local elementary school, as well as sports teams in Folsom, Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills. We’ve had a booth at the El Dorado Hills Firefighters’ Wine, Cheese and Brew Festival for the last four years donating food to raise money for the fire department. We also catered food for 80 fire volunteers for the Santa Run and Food Bank food collection. We sponsor the Community Service’s District children’s flag football, donating a coaches dinner, water bottles and gift cards to the over 400 local kids. We have donated thousands of dollars to support book fairs in our local elementary schools. If they spent $100 towards the school, Purple Place donated $15 gift cards per purchase. We have donated many cocktail parties with dancing and appetizers for live auctions at fundraisers including high school music, drama, athletic and academic programs and elementary and middle schools. What hobbies do you enjoy? I love to scuba dive and play golf and tennis, but always struggle to find time. With three boys in sports, my current hobby has been driving around watching youth sports. When my kids get older, I plan to have more time for my other hobbies. Tell us about your family. My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We have been together for 27 years, married 18 years. We have three great boys. Connor who is 14 years old is in eighth grade at Marina. He plays soccer, is a G.A.T.E. student, and plays guitar. Jason is 12 years old in sixth grade at Marina. He plays basketball, flag football, golf and electric guitar and is involved in the Bowmen’s Club. Cole is 9 years old in third grade at Lakeview. He loves all sports but his favorites are soccer and flag football. We also have a Chocolate Lab, Cocoa, who tolerates the love our crazy energized boys give her. What are you most proud of? I’m most proud of what we’ve done with The Purple Place Bar & Grill. My husband took this historic but dilapidated Purple Place to such a different level. When we purchased it five years ago, it was on its last leg, screaming to be resurrected. We’ve won Best Small Business of El Dorado Hills by the Chamber of Commerce. We’ve also won numerous other awards for food, bar and service. With my husband’s long history in the industry, we took a big risk and a lot of hard work to renovate it along with a new menu and service standards to grow from having only 16 employees to over 50 employees. I am most proud of my husband, and best friend. He throws himself fully into everything he does. He became one of the only pilots in Contra Costa County that got 100 percent on his four-hour written exam. He built his own mountain bike from scratch. He sailed the Double Handed Farallon’s Race in a gale-force storm and came in second in class, while 100 of the 400 boats didn’t even finish the race. What causes are you passionate about? The shortage of fields for kids in El Dorado Hills to play sports. What is one thing about you people might be surprised to learn? I swam my entire youth. I was an All-American swimmer all four years in high school. I got a full ride scholarship to UCLA.