She moved with purpose in blue velvet lingerie, wiping the steam wands and cleaning strewn espresso grounds as a car waited outside her coffee kiosk on a brisk Thursday morning.
Black lace lined her outfit. Her eyelids were brushed with purple shadow. Wavy brown hair flowed past her shoulders, while fuzzy black boots covered her feet. Elisha Brown slid the glass window and greeted Lee Martin with a smile.
His eyes widened.
“You forgot your clothes!” he said with a short laugh.
“Yeah, I left them at the door when I came in,” Brown said. “They just fell right off!”
Martin paused, slightly confused. His daughter told him to visit the new coffee kiosk on Second Street in Casper. That’s all.
Brown leaned in closer to Martin.
“It’s a bikini coffee shop, darling.”
Martin ordered a mocha with three shots. Brown closed the window. She measured and tamped the espresso grounds and frothed the milk, careful to avoid a 160-degree splash on her exposed skin.
“That’s like the third time I’ve heard that joke,” she said.
For the past few weeks, this is what almost every morning has looked like for the 31-year-old. Starting at 5:30 a.m., she makes smoothies and lattes, mochas and macchiatos, smiling and talking with customers who pull up to Casper’s newest kiosk, Man Cave Coffee.
The idea originated a few months ago. Brown, a massage therapist, was working with a patient and mentioned an idea: What if she opened her own massage business where masseuses wear bikinis? Her patient, Josh Johnson, offered his own take: Keep the bikinis, but open a coffee kiosk.
Brown loved the idea.
“It’s different. It’s a hook,” she said. “Starbucks is the No. 1 coffee seller in the United States. You’ve got to have something to make yourself set apart from them if you’re going to (serve coffee).”
Johnson and Brown found a recently closed kiosk and purchased it. They approached the city and explained their idea, learning it was legitimate as long as baristas did not flash or strip for customers. They also had to follow health code regulations, such as wearing two pairs of underwear.
In the weeks leading up to their March 16 soft opening, Brown spent 40 hours learning how to become a barista. She sampled roughly 20 varieties of coffee beans before settling on a roast, and she hired two more female workers.
The women receive all types of responses.
“I wasn’t really sure how Casper would react,” Brown said. “I knew that we would have some issues with some people, because Casper is kind of set in its ways sometimes. Anything new, they have a hard time with.”
Some customers come for the bikinis. For others, it’s what keeps them away. According to Brown, a woman recently pulled up to the kiosk without knowing the hook.
“Why the bikinis?” she asked.
Brown explained that it was fun and different. They were just trying to have a good time.
The woman told her she wished the business would reconsider.
“I like your coffee,” she said, “but I won’t be back because of your outfits.”
The idea of a bikini coffee shop is nothing new. Johnson got the idea from a kiosk he visited in Montana. There are bikini coffee shops in states like North Dakota, Arizona and Washington.
According to Brown, it’s a successful business for everyone involved. She learned that some of the baristas at these kiosks even make up to $400 a day in tips. Her long-term goal is to expand Man Cave Coffee across Wyoming and beyond.
“It’s different, something fun, something that there isn’t in (Casper) right now other than us,” said Johnson, 32, who works on maintenance with the store. “People like originality.”
Brown is very comfortable with the attire. She used to model lingerie. She’s also never cold, because the espresso machine fills the space with steam and heat.
“The thermometer says it’s 90 degrees,” she said. “It’s like a sauna in here.”
The kiosk, at Second and Jefferson streets, is open seven days a week, 5:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Most of the customers are men. Some visit every day. One regular told Brown that he doesn’t even like coffee, even though he orders a 20-ounce cup.
In the future, Brown would like to hire a male barista. He would wear boxers, with hopes of attracting more female customers.
But she understands why some people would have no interest visiting.
“It is controversial. Everybody’s going to talk and think and have their opinion,” Brown said. “And they’re all allowed to. I was allowed to put this together. Everybody’s allowed to voice their opinion.
“I’m sure we’ve offended a lot of people in this town, and we’ve also changed the way a lot of people think about it, too.”
“If it’s that controversial,” Johnson added, “then don’t buy coffee from us.”
By 8:30 a.m. Thursday, Man Cave Coffee was already running low on water. The 60-gallon tank was full to start the day, meaning this was by far the busiest morning.
Jonathan House pulled up in his car just after 10. He’s a regular, and has known Brown since they were teenagers. House has been to the bikini kiosks in Washington, as well as one in Alaska. He enjoys them, and understands their profit margins.
“I was actually thinking it was about time somebody did it out here,” House said. “It’s something different and unusual.”