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For $15: wash, wax, bikinis, bouncers

The carwash owner worries about employee training, denies bias in hiring and launches with optimism like most entrepreneurs.

With five minutes to go before the debut of his new bikini carwash, Job Levesque wanted a quick dry run, so to speak.

Taking no chances that his employees might flub the finer points of buffing and waxing, he called them together and started slowly, from the beginning.

"Does anybody know basically how to wash a car?"

Blank stares greeted the 27-year-old Brooksville entrepreneur when he looked at the young women, who seconds earlier had been standing in a circle, comparing tattoos.

"You weren't here last week," he said, pointing to a platinum-blond, Tori Spelling look-alike who had missed an earlier job orientation.

Leading the group into a nearby bay, he turned on the hose.

"You basically put it on the high-pressure soak first, then you grab one of these," Levesque said, pointing to a sponge floating in a bucket of soapy water.

Turning the women loose on a friend's dusty black sedan, he reminded them that their tank tops wouldn't meet dress code once paying customers started showing up: "When we get the next car, you all just take off your tops."

With that, Suds & Jugs, the county's newest, and many say, most controversial, carwash was born.

Staffed by 14 women, ranging in age from 17 to 32, the business offers an alternative to the traditional do-it-yourself carwash. The first of its kind in Hernando County, Suds & Jugs opened Saturday at Topline Tire & Auto's self-service carwash on Cortez Boulevard, across from the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Counting on men to line up and pay for his recipe of scantily clad women, water and cars, Levesque believes he has struck gold.

"Guys love cars and guys love girls," he said. "You mix 'em together and you've got a business."

But to make sure things don't get dicey, flirting is prohibited, as is exchanging phone numbers with customers, according to Levesque. Enforcing the ground rules will fall to the two bouncers and a manager scheduled to be on site at all times. Levesque operates the business with his girlfriend, Farrah Hess.

Levesque bristles at critics' claims that his enterprise amounts to exploitation, and he flatly denies hiring on looks alone.

"I have all different types of girls here," he said. "Everybody that came up here to apply I hired."

As for the Jugs part of the business, Levesque said size isn't everything.

"I'm just out here to have girls washing cars," he said. "I don't care if they're well-endowed or not."

Linn Mattix, 17, of Spring Hill took the job to earn extra money during her freshman year at Pasco-Hernando Community College, where she is studying business to become a paralegal.

"I think it's a cute thing," she said. "You see more at the beach. Come on."

After a slow start Saturday morning, Levesque said more than 40 cars had cycled through by 3 p.m.

Dick Payton, 58, of Aripeka was one customer who got away. After stopping to compliment Levesque's business acumen, he opted nonetheless to scrub his own fenders.

"Shoot, I can get my car washed for a dollar and a quarter," he said. "Why would I want to pay somebody else $15 to do it? I'm beyond looking at bikinis. Money's more important to me."

Levesque said he got a number of requests from female customers who wanted men to wash their cars, and if all goes well, he may consider expanding.

"I haven't really got into that one yet," he said. "I would have to change the whole name, and it would be Studs & Jugs."

In the meantime, the plan is to operate the carwash out of leased space at Topline on weekends, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Charges start at $10 for a wash and $15 for a wash and wax. It costs an extra $5 to dry.

Jason Rose, 24, of Brooksville liked the job the women did on his 1980 Corvette and said he plans to make Suds & Jugs a regular weekend stop.

"Just for the fact that you don't have to do it yourself," he said. "Who doesn't want to have their car washed by women in bikinis?"

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