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Bikini car wash debuts in Tarpon Springs

Stacey Barlow dries a car at the Bubble Bee Wash & Lube on U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. The carwash is trying to drum up some extra business by having bikini day twice a week. The response Thursday was good.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Stacey Barlow dries a car at the Bubble Bee Wash & Lube on U.S. 19 in Tarpon Springs. The carwash is trying to drum up some extra business by having bikini day twice a week. The response Thursday was good.

TARPON SPRINGS — As James Brown stood in front of the Bubble Bee Wash & Lube, his blue Ford F-250 truck emerged from its cleaning. Within seconds, four women, all wearing bikini tops and each carrying two towels, walked toward the vehicle.

One climbed into the truck's bed.

The others positioned themselves along the sides and front.

Then, almost simultaneously, each began drying it.

Not far away, Brown, 41, of Palm Harbor enjoyed the show.

"It's awesome," he said. "What better thing can there be than getting your car washed by beautiful women?"

Thursday was the inaugural bikini day at the Bubble Bee, which is just south of Tarpon Avenue on U.S. 19. The initiative was hatched by Rachel Sarkis, whose husband is part owner, in an effort to spark business at a time when growth for most is difficult to achieve.

"I think it's a good idea," said Sarkis, 25, of Tarpon Springs. "Anything we can do to give us a little bit of an edge. If a guy has a choice, he's going to want to be around girls. It's really not anything different than WingHouse."

To find employees, Sarkis posted an ad online using Craigslist. In it, she wrote: "We need energetic and attractive people!" Those interested were asked to submit a photo and a resume.

More than a dozen people inquired about a position. From that pool, five women, ranging in age from 18 to 23, were picked. The job, which includes greeting customers and later drying their vehicles, pays $7.25 an hour plus tips. Thursday, the women wore regular, everyday shorts with their swimsuit tops.

"I think it's cool," said one of the bikini washers, Stacey Barlow.

Barlow, 18, of St. Petersburg said she took the job more to get out of the house than for the money. But the St. Petersburg College student said she hoped to make at least $50 a day in tips alone.

"I'm doing something that's fun," Barlow said. "And it's hard to find a fun job."

For now, Bubble Bee will have bikini days twice a week (Thursday and Friday). If the response is strong, they might occur more often. And so far, it has been.

As of 1 p.m. Thursday (hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.), Sarkis said there had been about a 15 percent increase in customers over a typical weekday.

Count Brown among those who wouldn't mind seeing bikini day become a permanent fixture.

"I've already texted five of my buddies," he said.

Keith Niebuhr can be reached at kniebuhr@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4156.

Bikini car wash debuts in Tarpon Springs 04/23/09 [Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2009 9:28pm]
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