Dream Girls soon to pour final cup
Secret photos appear to have added pressure to landlord to curtail lease
After an explosive start, followed by a comparatively quiet year, Forest Groves Dream Girl Espresso stand is closing down with a bang.
The closure comes amid mounting pressure on the coffee stands property owner and a confusing conflation of two separate photographers who both aimed to document that the bikini baristas at Elm Street and 19th Avenue were not living up to co-owner Leah Sizemores commitment to shun strip-club attire and have her employees cover up at least a little.
July 31 will be the kiosks last day.
Although serving coffee in pasties is legal, Ive instructed my employees to wear bikinis, Sizemore said at a packed Aug. 12, 2013 Forest Grove City Council meeting shortly after the stand opened.
The pledge came in response to reports from alarmed community members that the baristas had shed bikinis and were instead wearing see-through panties or g-strings and pasties, which cover only the nipple area of the breast.
I thought the accommodation she made was reasonable, said Eric Canon, a local metal artist whose strong opinions on issues are well-known around town. I thought if she can sell coffee in beachwear, thats fine. I dont have a problem with that.
But about six weeks ago, Canon received revealing photos from someone who claimed that the baristas were back to pasties.
Canon said he was skeptical because he remembered Sizemores pledge, which he believed was partly in response to a request from her business landlord, Steve Schmitz, a manager at John L. Scott Real Estate in Hillsboro.
But the photos sent to him made him suspicious, so Canon drove to the Plaid Pantry parking lot (where the coffee kiosk is located), got out, and there she was in all her glory. She had pasties, Canon said of the barista. I took two pictures that day, he said. Then a potato chip truck drove up and totally blocked my view. Thats the only time Ive ever taken pictures.
Sizemore said Canon was outside the stand taking pictures for a year now and sending the photos to Schmitzs female colleagues. On the Facebook page for Dream Girl Espresso Forest Grove, she wrote Everyone can thank Eric Canon for blackmailing us to the point of having to close our doors.
But it turns out Canon wasnt the only Dream Girls opponent snapping photos.
Bob Elkind of Gaston said he has taken photos at the stand three or four times since it opened, including once before the August 2013 city council meeting and several other times around January.
For a while the owner lived up to her promise to avoid pasties and so forth, Elkind said Tuesday. And then she seemed to backtrack, I guess around December. And then it got so bad we figured we needed to show this to the city council and also to the landlord.
He said he sent a few revealing photos showing Forest Grove bikini baristas serving coffee while wearing pasties beneath see-through netting to KOIN TV and to two of Schmitzs female colleagues back in January. He intended for the colleagues to either forward the photos to Schmitz or to express their displeasure to him.
The News-Times was unable to reach Schmitz for this story.
Fast forward to June, when Canon sent over his own two photos, along with a Facebook shot of a barista wearing the heart-shaped pasties he claims were the outfit worn by the barista in his photos.
Canons photos are much murkier than Elkinds and a car is blocking the baristas chest in one. In the other, Canon said, the photo needs to be magnified to see the pasty.
He said he took the photos about 10 a.m., sent them to Schmitz shortly after that and finally heard back from Schmitz around 4:30 p.m.
According to Canon, Schmitz said that this was what he needed, that I had provided him with proof that she was not conforming to what he had asked her to do ... He alluded to complaints and that he needed grounds to cancel Sizemores lease.
That was the message Canon wanted to hear: Im going to cancel her lease.
When he suggested Schmitz might need to be careful shutting down a business, he said, Oh no its month-to-month, Canon said.
On July 7, Canon emailed Schimtz for an update because he hadnt heard anything since that original phone call.
He said Schmitz wrote back a few days later: Dont know what to say. Ive done what I committed to. I gave her 30 days notice.
Sizemore said she might contact a lawyer to see if there is any basis for taking legal action against the photographers.
In a January Facebook post, Elkind addressed the question of harassment. I did not contact Dreamgirls customers or workers, nor did I interfere (or attempt to interfere) with their business, he wrote. Photographing the activities and dress from a distance (and from a public sidewalk) was nothing more or less than part of an effort to hold Sizemore accountable for her public promise to require nothing less than bikinis to be worn by her staff.
Sizemore claims she said her employees wouldnt be wearing just pasties and, in fact, Canon and Elkind both report there was additional clothing involved in their photoswhether netting or a sliver of bikinialthough the pasties were always clearly visible.
She said she knows some people felt her employees skimpy dress was immoral, but charges that its also immoral to bully someone out of their business.
And she notes that the stand was getting just as much flak and harassment the first week it openedwhen the baristas were wearing normal bikinis.
A Milwaukie Dream Girl Espresso stand ran into similar trouble, drawing strong opposition from a few nearby businesses. In Forest Grove, the kiosk is near a residential neighborhood and in a prominent location on a neighborhood street.
Sizemores Hillsboro stand, which has not attracted any negative attention, sits on a main drag TV Highway where it is surrounded by businesses that apparently arent concerned about it.
Mike Olson of Olsons Bicycle Shop across the street from the Forest Grove location said the stand seemed to have a steady stream of customers. Theyve got three or four cars lined up, he said, looking out his window when contacted Tuesday. They arent as busy as Dutch Bros., he said, but seemed as busy or busier than other coffee kiosks in town.
His customers occasionally joked about the stand, Olson said, but didnt have strong feelings about its presence in Forest Grove. Most customers dont care either way.JW_DISQUS_ADD_A_COMMENT