Meet Halle Nguyen, owner of Wild Bean Espresso

wild bean espresso

One writer spills the beans about an encounter with the owner of Wild Bean Espresso, a Honolulu lingerie-meets-coffee-meets-food-truck enterprise.

A full day’s adventure begins seconds after I stop to take a picture of the large, zebra-striped vision of a beverage wagon in Ward after a failed attempt to get into Mister T for a beverage. From the vehicle, Halle Nguyen, the owner of the Wild Bean trucks, beckons me to take a step inside, a smooth move she saves for girls with employee potential.

I found her, like most can, at the front counter of the striped truck tucked away on a dirt parking spot on Waimanu Street—wearing next to nothing. Today is a skin-bearing white-lace bra-lette and a pair of daisy duke shorts that are occasionally thrown to the side to present the whole package.

The interior of the truck is littered with pictures of Wild Bean girls. On the countertop next to the fridge sits an espresso machine and a blender, a golden Maneki Neko (lucky cat) watching from the shelf above as the girls inside celebrate Nipple Pasties Friday, a very inciting, boobalicious vortex.

We all love to look at beautiful things, they say.

This party started six years back, when Nguyen realized sales at Nini’s Boutique Exchange, a consignment shop she owned, were dwindling. She decided she needed something more lively [insert sexy girls with a hot coffee and a smile], and the first truck appeared on the corner of Dillingham and Puuhale, her home turf, an idea birthed out of a memory from 12 years ago when the former fashion major drove through a coffee stand in Seattle and ordered a latte from girls in bikinis.

She has since expanded her empire to two trucks, with a third opening this month. For Nguyen, the great thing about the concept is that the drinks take the back seat, according to her, it is the experience and the service that draw both men and women and keep them coming back.

She takes a break from talking to me to pose for a collections agent who doubles as her personal photographer on his lunch breaks. The man orders a “Sweet Ass,” which consists of Monster, pineapple juice, flavored syrup, and extra ice, just the way he likes it.

The conversation turns from work to personal life, and I realize Nguyen is not only a beautiful entrepreneur, but also a confidant to her regulars and her “Wild Girls,” as she calls her employees. 

“Everyone who comes to the truck, even the women, are very respectful and well behaved,” says Nguyen. “It is because we give good service even though we may be in a bikini serving coffee. … We all love to look at beautiful things, they say.” 

However, Nguyen mentions there’s a high turn-over rate; while the girls earn generous tips, they only last about eight months before they head in other directions.

Because bikini-clad ladies are so commonplace in Hawai‘i, Nguyen has chosen to clothe her employees in nipple pasties, lingerie, panties, and bras. Her choice of uniform is borderline exhibitionist, but she mentions class and taste are a large part of upholding her operation. However, Nguyen’s “eye candy” beverage wagon has not gone without concern from critics.

People knocking Nguyen’s business concept are concerned about the escalation towards indecent exposure or the possibility of exploitation of girls for money. These critiques aren’t without merit. According to The Wall Street Journal, “sexpresso” franchises like these are getting a bad rep in Washington state.

Law enforcement officers have been investigating a chain of coffee shops in Everett and Kent for alleged lewd conduct and prostitution violations, resulting in nine arrests on counts of prostitution and indecent exposure.

Because bikini-clad ladies are so commonplace in Hawai‘i, Nguyen has chosen to clothe her employees in nipple pasties, lingerie, panties, and bras.

But Nguyen tells me that going to unlawful measures is reckless and would never happen at Wild Bean Espresso. According to username “W.M.H,” on Yelp, who is a strong supporter of the truck, “When you go to The Wild Bean, you go for the scenery. You go because there are next-to naked, smokin hot hunnies busting their scantily-clad okoles to make you the best espresso they know how. And as a hot-blooded Hawaiian local, I FREAKIN APPRECIATE IT!!! If this doesn’t bring a smile to your face, then you don’t love America!” Well it seems like a great deal of locals agree with you W.M.H., because Nguyen expects to open her third Wild Bean espresso truck this month in Waikiki.

After we chat, Nguyen throws around the invitation to lunch and champagne and offers to introduce me to her friend who owns a radio station … but I suppose it’s all empty promises, until the things actually start to happen.

She puts on her white button-up blouse over her working-girl lingerie, and I lock up my scooter outside the Dog Spaw.

We get into her orange Element and head to the grand opening of a bikini franchise from Brazil just down the street, off to the next “wild girl” adventure.

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