Faces of the Boom: Williston coffee stands use feminine appeal

Marisa Randock of Spokane, Wash., works for Boomtown Babes on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, in Williston, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Two women-run coffee stands have attention-getting names, especially in this male-dominated oil boomtown.

While one business, C Cups Espresso, is risqué in name only, competitor Boomtown Babes Espresso features sexy baristas and provocative humor.

Both coffee stands have a steady stream of customers keeping the owners happy about their decisions to move across the country to start their first businesses.

“It was like I opened up three coffee stands in one,” said Boomtown Babes owner Nyssa Gray.

Gray was saving up money to open her own business while managing Hot Chick-a-Latte, a lingerie-themed coffee stand in the Seattle area. One of Gray’s customers was moving his construction crew to North Dakota and suggested Gray open her business in Williston.

“It’s 100 guys for every girl, so I knew it’d have that wow factor,” said Gray, 25.

The coffee stand featuring attractive girls in Spandex shorts and tight tanktops opened in August. Gray based her expectations on the amount of business she saw in Seattle and initially ran out of inventory.

“It’s been just crazy,” Gray said.

Crystal Keaster, pictured Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, owns C Cups Espresso in Williston, N.D. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

At C Cups Espresso, customers can order beverages in sizes B cup through DD cup.

Owner Crystal Keaster, who moved to Williston from Alaska, chose the name as a joke and a spinoff of her nickname, “C.” Keaster, 29, said the name was a bit of a risk, but that’s as provocative as she takes it.

“I tell the girls ‘If you can’t wear it to church, you can’t wear it in here,’” Keaster said. “The name is as far as it goes.”

Before moving to Williston two years ago, Keaster worked on the North Slope of Alaska doing office and clerical work for oil companies. She wanted to work for a coffee stand, but couldn’t find a job there without experience.

“Everybody was talking about booming North Dakota,” Keaster said. “I decided if I can’t work for you, I’ll just work for myself.”

C Cups first opened near the Black Gold Lodge, a workforce housing camp. The men at the camp were good customers, but it was too far north of Williston to attract enough business, Keaster said.

She relocated the stand to Williston and recently reopened in the Subway parking lot after a five-month hiatus while looking for a long-term location.

C Cups and Boomtown Babes have been operating at the same time for about the past month, but both stay busy.

“There’s plenty to go around,” Keaster said. “They’ll reach a demographic we won’t.”

Gray wanted Boomtown Babes to have a more provocative name and feature girls in lingerie and costumes, but to comply with city rules she had to agree on clothing that could be considered streetwear.

“Mine is a lot more watered down,” Gray said.

Boomtown Babes employee Marisa Randock of Spokane, Wash., said she averages $200 to $300 in tips during a four-hour shift. But it’s not all due to the skimpy outfit, she says.

“You have to have a nice, awesome personality,” Randock said.

Owners of both shops have plans to stay in the area, at least for now.

For Keaster, she met her husband while working at the coffee stand and the couple recently had a baby girl.

Gray, who spent a year in Williston before she was able to open Boomtown Babes, said she is now thinking bigger.

“I came here with a goal and a year later I did it,” Gray said. “I definitely want to expand, open up at least three more stands.”

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