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Votes

Marketing Done the Old-Fashioned Way

Dining

Heidi Koontz is a "foodie." As such, she likes all things culinary. Her website, www.intiutivefare.com, describes her as having, ". . . an undying passion for food and wine with 20 years of experience as manager, promoter, sommelier, wine buyer and server in the hospitality industry."

Not only does Koontz have experience in the food industry, but she also spent several years in California handling public relations for corporate giants such as Visa and Charles Schwab.

"It was a job [doing public relations], but my heart was in food and wine. My friends said, 'Why don't you open a restaurant? You're such a foodie,'" Koontz said.

Running a restaurant wasn't quite what she had in mind, but she realized that by handling public relations for restaurants, she could have that food connection.

"I found a way to get back into the restaurant business using my marketing [skills]," Koontz said.

She calls her new venture "Intuitive Fare" and describes her marketing as grassroots because she uses low-cost publicity and word-of-mouth advertising.

Koontz takes marketing to the next level by developing new and innovative events for her clients. She's currently working on a campaign for King Street Blues in Kingstowne. Because Kingstowne is such a growing area, Koontz thought that realtors might need a place to catch up on paperwork and make phone calls. With that in mind, she approached Doug Harvey and Martin White, the owners of King Street Blues and suggested that they make their place available from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. During this time, Realtors can stop by, grab a cup of coffee and use the space to write their contracts. King Street Blues has also started hosting a Realtor's Open House the second Wednesday of every month at 6:30 p.m.

The third service they offer for Realtors is an Open House in a Box. Koontz said that a Realtor just has to call up and say how many people they expect and what their budget is. King Street Blues will prepare a package that can be opened and ready to serve.

"She's wonderful, I think she's very creative," said Doug Harvey, co-owner of three King Street Blues locations. "We were two operator/owners who were fortunate enough to grow from one to three restaurants. What we didn't do well was marketing; we needed somebody like Heidi."

Harvey said that while they're waiting for the Kingstowne Realtor program [to get underway], Koontz is working on a program to target prospective customers in Crystal City apartment buildings for their Crystal City location and keeping on eye on opportunities for their Stafford location.

KOONTZ IS CURRENTLY working with Founder's Restaurant and Café Marianna, both in Alexandria. She also put together a Champagne Dinner, a Tuscan Wine Dinner and a New Zealand Wine Tasting and Dinner for Bullfeathers Restaurant on King Street in Alexandria.

With Koontz's help, Founder's has hosted several events, including an Inaugural Beer Dinner, a fundraiser for the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria and a Benefit Dinner for the Leukemia Society. This month, they are planning a Wine Tasting and Four-Course Dinner Pairing featuring Barboursville wines.

The first course will feature grilled scallops and the second course will be a summer greens salad. For the main course, guests will have a choice of chilled Ahi tuna, pan seared pork or flank salad. The dinner will end with a fruit Bavarian cake with grand Marnier vanilla sauce. Each course will be paired with a select Barboursville wine.

"If we can educate people on Virginia wines, that's what it's all about," said Steven Winterling, chef and owner of Founder's Restaurant & Brewing Company. "There are so many good Virginia wines to try, I don't think they get as much credit as they deserve."

Winterling serves only Virginia wines (from 11 different vineyards), and said that he likes working with Koontz. The beer dinner Founder's hosted in February went well, according to Winterling.

"It was a small intimate group; I was able to sit down and have dinner with them," he said.

CAFE MARIANNA has been doing some innovative events as well. In February, they held a New Orleans-style cooking class and wine dinner. Chef Charles Oppman, proprietor of the restaurant, showed guests how to make a Mardi Gras dinner and shared ideas on entertaining New Orleans-style. After the class, guests were treated to a four-course dinner and a wine tasting of three estate wines from Siema Imports.

"The New Orleans cooking class was great. We sold out, with four extra. The guests learned a lot and laughed a lot, Charles told fun stories about working in New Orleans and preparing for Mardi Gras. Afterwards, we dined on the great food, and then we all had a piece of King Cake. Charles also gave everyone the raw dough for a King Cake, so they could all take it home and bake a fresh king cake the following week for Fat Tuesday," Koontz said.

Coming up this month is Old Town Alexandria's 1st Bastille Day Waiter's Race, an event Koontz hopes will be an annual one. Sponsored by Café Marianna, it will be held on Wednesday, July 14 at 3 p.m. in Market Square, Alexandria. Proceeds from that event will benefit Big Brothers & Big Sisters of the National Capital Area, as will 100 percent of the proceeds from a special four-course dinner that will be served that evening at Café Marianna.

Koontz spent this past weekend visiting local restaurants with flyers to encourage waiters to join the fun. There is a $25 entry fee/donation and the grand prize will be a trip to Paris, [Virginia, of course.] The winning waiter and a guest will spend an evening at the Ashby Inn and enjoy an elegant dinner for two and a country breakfast the next day.

Bistro Europa, La Bergerie and Le Gaulois will also donate a portion of the evening's dinners to the cause.

Koontz is coordinating a different type of charity event to be held at Moore Cadillac Hummer in Reston, on July 16. The event, which is designed to raise money for Joe Gibb's Youth for Tomorrow, will feature food and wine from Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, Clyde's, Silver Diner and Oasis Vineyards.

Never at a loss for ideas, Koontz is connecting another client, Goodstone Inn & Estates in Middleburg, with a friend of hers who gives polo lessons. Guests who visit the inn during the week can elect to participate in a polo workshop. They can also take advantage of a limousine wine tour, which includes a ride to the estate, an overnight stay and a wine tour.

On a different tack, Koontz has started promoting Cheesetique. This new gourmet cheese shop, which is due to open in the Del Ray section of Alexandria this summer, is the idea of an aspiring female entrepreneur, Jill Erber. Koontz said that they have been giving out samples at First Thursday, which is held in Del Ray the first Thursday of the month. Cheesetique will feature artisan cheeses from around the world and the United States, exotic cured meats and specialty non-perishable items.