FREMONT -- There are plenty of coffee shops in Fremont, but those with pretty young women working in bikinis are hard to find.
That combination is "a gold mine," said Robert Martinez, a formerly out-of-work general contractor who, desperate to help pay his sons' college bills, has opened Your Coffee Cups -- the Bay Area's first bikini barista drive-though coffee business.
The establishment, in a Warm Springs district strip mall, serves Mr. Espresso coffee in a 16-ounce "C-Cup" for $1.85.
But the real draw may be the "eye candy" that comes with each purchase, evidenced by the fact that all 22 drive-through customers during a one-hour stretch Thursday morning were men.
"I'm spoiled," said Ken Lockett, a burly Fremont machinist, just before a barista wearing little more than a bikini top and short shorts asked him, "Is your coffee good?"
"It's always good," Lockett replied smiling, before leaving a tip.
Business has been pretty good since Martinez opened the climate-controlled coffee hut last month at 46685 Mission Blvd.
By the second week, Your Coffee Cups had doubled the revenue of its predecessor, Island Java, said Martinez, who knows the owner of that shop.
And say what you will about the customers, they are good tippers. The baristas say they make an average of $50 in tips during a four-hour shift -- on top of their $9-per-hour salary.
"I have more time for myself," said Samantha Dela Cruz, a 21-year-old San Jose State student, who takes home more in four hours at the coffee shop than she did working eight hours a day at a Lowe's home-improvement store.
Drive-through coffee shops with bikini-clad servers have become popular in the Pacific Northwest, the land that gave the world Starbucks.
Martinez, whose friend had opened a shop in Oregon, decided to travel to Seattle earlier this year with his fiancee, Irene Mann, to get a firsthand look at the growing fad.
"They were doing good business," he said. "I thought, why not do it here? I hadn't worked in more than a year. I needed to reinvent myself."
Martinez drives to the shop from his Castro Valley home every weekday before 5:30 a.m. to brew the first cup of coffee before retreating to his nearby truck where he spends most of the day with an eye on the shop.
He's hoping to open three more bikini barista establishments in the next two years and, although his first shop is just breaking even, he thinks each of them can eventually net $10,000 to $15,000 a month.
"It's going to literally go through the roof," he said.
The shops have encountered some issues in the Northwest. There have been news reports of baristas flashing customers for bigger tips and customers exposing themselves to baristas.
Martinez and the baristas said none of that has happened at the Fremont shop, which has cameras on the baristas and the drivers.
"They say 'Hi,' they get their coffee, and they're gone," barista Rosanna Ortiz said. "They don't make you feel like a stripper."
"It's just like going to the beach," Dela Cruz said. "It's no big deal. We're not putting ourselves out there."
A few unwitting female customers have voiced their displeasure with the bikini gimmick, a couple of whom decided to take their business elsewhere, said barista Natasha Berg, who studies English at San Francisco State.
But there is a way to offset the opposition being voiced by some of the women, she said.
"You have to talk to (them) a little more so they see you're not an idiot in a bikini."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002. For more Fremont news, read his blog at www.ibabuzz.com/tricitybeat.