MANATEE -- One Bradenton business is hoping its coffee is as steaming hot as its service.
Bikini-clad, sometimes lingerie-laden women wave signs to get attention -- mainly guys -- as they scoot up Tamiami Trail for their morning commute near Bayshore Gardens. They're not dressed down for a sexy car wash, instead a coffee stand called Cups O' Joy.
On Monday morning, cars honked and waved at Jean Lee as she waved a sign trying to get customers to buy a cup of coffee or iced tea. She didn't mind the attention or her work attire, which consisted of a pink and black argyle bra and panties with matching boots.
"I'd rather wear this than a pair of pants and a T-shirt, you know?" Lee said. "I live in Florida. It's hot here."
The local concept was the brainchild of Bradenton residents Rocky Carr and friend David Sovey.
"We've got Sarasota, we've got beaches and we've got girls in bikinis already all over the place," Carr said. "We're in Bradenton, but regardless, we're a beach town. There's not really a huge beach theme here until you get out to the key. There's so much tourism in this area, we thought if we brought something like that closer in, it might get peo
The name of the shop appears to be a wink to the bikini baristas, but Carr was sly about that.
"It could be perceived one way or another, but I'm not going to confirm or deny your assertion there," he said.
The drive-thru stand opened this month at 6295 14th St. W., in Bradenton. It's open 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Admittedly, bikini barista are not an original idea.
"They're all over Washington state, and there's a huge coffee scene up there. It's paramount up there and people really love it," Carr said. "There's bikini barista shops everywhere."
From Seattle to Spokane, Washington has led the way with baristas showing some skin for males and females. One concept, Hot Cup of Joe in Spokane, staffs shirtless men. A group of bikini barista stands took the concept too far and the owner was charged with running a prostitution operation out of her coffee stands as part of a $2 million money laundering scheme.
In Bradenton, Carr wanted to make his business friendly and respectable and shied away from one suggestion from one of his business partners to have the girls wear pasties on their chest.
"I don't think that would have been as well accepted in the community," Carr said. "We're already skating on the skin of our teeth with the bikini idea. People are going to be naïve about that because we have girls out here in bikinis, but we're a beach town. What are you going to say about that? There's girls in bikinis everywhere out here."
Michelle Cooper, a business partner with Cups O' Joy, said the baristas aren't turning away female customers.
"Of course we're going to appeal more to a certain type of customer, but we do get a lot of women who do come through here," Cooper said. "It's a twist. We haven't really gotten any negative feedback about it."
Carr said jokingly there's been a request for some equal treatment.
"As you'd expect, a lot of females we talk to said, 'You're gonna have guys, right?'" he said. "Well, I don't know how we'd do this yet. It's kind of an equality balance you have to manage."
As much as the drive-thru stand is about bikinis, they're in business to sell coffee, cold drinks, pastries and bagels.
The small shop in the former Greatest Coffee stand offers drive-thru service only, and also serves iced drinks and smoothies.
"Same drinks, better prices, hotter girls and better coffee," Carr said.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.