Baristas jump start morning
April 30, 2009 · Updated 11:50 AM
By Brian Beckley-The Courier-Herald
Last week, the sign outside the Hot Choco Latte espresso stand on Sumner-Buckley Highway encouraged customers to bring back thoughts of summer.
But inside, the baristas are not waiting for the sun; it's already bikini season.
Looking to draw in new business, the stand has become the first in the Bonney Lake area to join a growing number of coffee stands around Puget Sound to dress its baristas in more revealing clothing.
The switch to bikini baristas was made March 19 and barista Jessi Favors was the first to debut at the stand in her bathing suit. While there were some intial complaints from regular customers, business has already increased.
Stand owner Susan, who declined to give her last name, said she bought the stand in January and thought Bonney Lake would be a good place to try out a new business model, no pun intended.
“I saw an opportunity that was there and decided to try it,” she said.
Susan said the bikinis are a way to help create a fun, new atmosphere at the stand, which she said was “boring” before the change.
“For the most part everybody - even the female customers - seem to like it,” she said.
Customers interviewed last week - men and women, young and old - were all positive about the change or more concerned about their coffee.
“I'm not here for the bikinis,” said Jason Curry, a regular who said he came every day, even before the wardrobe switch.
Regular Kristi Palmer agreed and said as long as her order is right, the barista's outfit is of no concern to her.
“I really could care less, I just want my coffee,” Palmer said.
On her first trip to the stand since the switch, Bertha McVay, a regular who said she stops for coffee each week after getting her hair done at a local salon, worried more about Favors being cold than showing too much skin.
“I think it's kind of cute,” McVay said. “If I had a figure like that, I'd be wearing a two-piece, too!”
The switch, which was announced with a small A-frame sign placed near the road, also drew in some new business, like couple Chris Taylor and Amy Dustin, whose curiosity at the bikini baristas drew them in for a quick latte.
“Yeah, I think it'll bring in business,” Taylor said, adding “I hate to say it, but I probably will tip more.”
Favors might be the perfect girl to bring the bikini barista to Bonney Lake. Before answering an ad on Craigslist.org, an online classified site, Favors worked at an espresso stand in Auburn that also encourages its baristas to show some skin.
“Bikinis make a difference,” she said with a smile and a shrug.
Favors said she left that stand because the owners were having the girls wear less and less and because the customers started to get too dirty in their comments to her. So far, the Bonney Lake crowd has been much more respectful.
“It's all just innocent innuendo,” she said, adding that the girls always joke that it's sweet girls making good coffee and not taking home anyone's husband.
Susan said though she plans theme days in the future, such as a -1-1 day” or a “nurse day,” she has no intention of being dirty.
“That's not our goal, it's not trashy,” she said. “We're not going for a dirty, nasty vibe at all.”
Not all comments about the switch have been positive, however. City Councilwoman Cheryl Noble received a call from a constituent Tuesday, which caused her to bring up the stand at that evening's council workshop.
“She had her children in the back and was quite taken aback,” Noble said of the complaint.
Noble said she has no problem with the baristas wearing bikinis but added she would like there to be more warning for customers as to what they are about to see.
“I'm not a prude,” Noble said. “But when you go to a Hooters, you know what to expect.
“We can't legislate everything, but at the same time, we are a young, family-oriented community,” she added.
Noble said she was “dismayed” at the length some business have to go to, but said “There's a market for everything.”
Susan said she has been encouraged by customer feedback so far and said she plans to keep things “tasteful.”
“The way I look at it, when you go to the beach or go to a pool, you're going to see less clothing,” she said, adding, “If they don't want to come through, they don't have to come through.”