Friday, February 23, 2018
TV and Media

Applicants answer Tampa casting call for Baristas Coffee's reality show and store

TAMPA

The requirements were simple: You had to know how to use a cellphone, you needed access to Skype and you couldn't have worked as a stripper.

Baristas Coffee Co. held a casting call Monday outside its soon-to-open Tampa location for people wanting to appear in its new reality show and work in the store.

The two-hour tryouts drew a small but diverse pool, from a 31-year-old single mother of four kids to a former child advocate volunteer. Not to mention a Swedish model in white shorts and a halter.

Organizers had hoped for a line around the building but thought some of the applicants showed promise. They figured many local residents were too tired from Gasparilla.

No one got a job on the spot, but Baristas CEO Barry Henthorn said a producer would be in touch to Skype with the top candidates.

Taping for the show was expected to start around Feb. 13 in Seattle, the chain's headquarters.

The drive-through coffee shop is known for its servers dressed in sexy costumes. Its eighth store, at 3601 W Gandy Blvd., was expected to open Monday in time for the casting call but ran into construction delays. Between auditions, Henthorn fielded questions from a health inspector.

The auditions drew a few models seeking a role on the reality show, which will document the lives of the baristas. Henthorn said he is working with a network to pick up the show but declined to say which one.

Pamela Ponder, the single mom, wanted a job. She liked the idea of dressing up in costume every day to serve java and a smile. She watches Jersey Shore and Teen Mom. Of course, she drinks coffee.

The Baristas girls wear provocative costumes but no pasties or thongs. It's not like Dolly's Donuts, the well-publicized topless doughnut shop that operated briefly in Tampa in the mid 1980s. Former strippers don't make the cut.

"We're not in the sex business. We're in the coffee business,'' Henthorn said. "We're extremely serious about coffee. We're from Seattle. You can't fake it if you're from there.''

Krystal Rodgers, who works at a Seattle Baristas, said the servers make buying a cup of joe a fun, friendly experience. The only comparison to Starbucks is the product they sell.

"It's a very personal experience. I get to know their names, their kids' names, their pets' names,'' she said while wearing a Minnie Mouse outfit and 5-inch stilettos. "I've had guys who say, 'This is the only part of my day I enjoy.''

Servers typically earn good money in tips. Rodgers has received flowers, candy and small gifts. Once, on her birthday, she got $100.

Chain officials chose the Gandy site because of its close proximity to Starbucks, which already has a base of customers who know the difference between a mocha and a latte.

"If we can give them a better product and a better experience, then we might win some of them over,'' Henthorn said.

Tampa's reputation as a strip club capital didn't hurt, either, he said.

Auditioner Catherine Soto, 27, came for a chance at fame and made no apologies for loving a tall latte with two shots of espresso — "strong and sweet kind of like me.'' A self-described bleeding heart, she hopes one day to start a school for children and work with causes against domestic violence.

But first, she wants to go to Seattle for a venti-sized dose of reality.

News researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

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