KLAAS

Steam is rising from your friendly neighborhood drive-through espresso stand these days, and it has little to do with a creamy latté.

Steam is rising from your friendly neighborhood drive-through espresso stand these days, and it has little to do with a creamy latté.

What’s brewin’ are scantily-clad baristas delivering flirty service, affectionate smiles and blown kisses.

A chain of Cowgirls Espresso stands is perking up controversy and a stronger jolt to commuting Auburnites than a double-shot venti.

Bikini-clad Kim greeted a long line of mostly solo male motorists early Wednesday morning. She braved a cold draft blowing through the service windows to serve up caffeine and conversation off heavily-trafficked A Street Southeast.

“Busy, yes, very busy,” she said while simultaneously taking orders at two service windows, one of which offered a nearly full-length view of the young barista. “And how are you doing today?”

Sales are good, of course. The Cowgirls are deliberately selling coffee with much more than a smile. Such an approach is attracting the curious and, in many cases, testosterone-heavy customers.

Good marketing strategy, perhaps, but at a cost.

In a land cluttered with quick grab-and-go coffee shacks, Cowgirls stand out in more ways than one.

Some folks don’t like it, and understandably so.

As one woman waiting in line offered, “I don’t want my latté served with a thong.”

But some men certainly don’t want their $4 drink served by a guy.

Depending on which day you drop by, the dress code varies, but it always leaves little to the imagination. Bikini Wednesdays can be upstaged by School Girl Thursdays and Fantasy Fridays.

As for Cowgirl Tuesdays, it might as well be “clothing optional.” Baristas basically wear nothing but skimpy lingerie. A little over the top, or little on top.

It’s raunchy, not classy.

There are better ways to sell good coffee. Using edgy outfits isn’t one of them.

A good espresso can be found elsewhere. But Cowgirls is selling something more. It is a bad idea that could lead to another. More customers certainly will be more interested in what Mindy is wearing on Mondays, than the mocha special.

What’s next? Lattés with a lap dance?

It’s free enterprise but cheap and cheesy commerce.

On another subject

Kenneth Vaa’s heart is in the right place, even if others might suggest he’s completely lost his mind for buying a Snickers bar for $52.03.

“My wife thinks that,” the Auburn man said. “But I’m a completely different person.

I don’t care what people think of me.”

Vaa has good reasons for successfully bidding on eBay for an 85-cent vending machine candy bar.

Call it a nostalgic and charitable gesture from someone who still adores a special clown.

To explain, the Snickers bar happened to be the last one standing from the now-shuttered Sunset Bowl, Ballard’s iconic alley, where Vaa bowled a couple of times. The one-acre site, which was sold to a developer for $13.2 million, will become apartments.

Vaa, a 46-year-old finish carpenter, actually bought the Snickers bar from an online auction to help fund the construction of a statue for J.P. Patches, a retired Seattle TV clown personality. Any remaining proceeds will go to Children’s Hospital, where Vaa’s 4-year-old son had heart surgery.

“The money is going to a good cause,” said Vaa, whose son, now 13, is doing well. “And they deserve all the money, support they can get.”

But the beloved clown triggered Vaa’s impulse buy.

“I grew up with him … he did a lot for the community over the years,” Vaa said. “It’s a tribute to him.”

As for the prized Snickers bar? Vaa doesn’t intend to eat it, he means to display it in a glass case with an engraved label, “the $52.03 Snickers bar.”

“I might put it by my front door,” he said. “It’s going to be a conversation piece.”

Mark Klaas can be reached

at 253-833-0218, ext. 5050, or

mklaas@reporternewspapers.com


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