West Coast style drive-thru coffee bar enters Rock Island


Chris Ferman

Atomic Coffee employee Ashley Smith prepares drinks for orders on Saturday, March 5, 2022.

Delaney Farwell

People across the Quad Cities have been known to ditch their coffee for brightly-colored energy drinks, and Augustana students may fall prey to the craze as a new Atomic Coffee Bar opens its doors in Rock Island. 

Atomic is a prominent part of the Quad Cities, and it is well-known among Augie students because of its unique flavorings and sugary-sweet energy drinks. The other locations have always been across the river so access to them was limited except to those with cars, and a new location much closer to campus may allow more students access to Atomic.

The Rock Island location does not yet have an opening date, but students are getting more and more excited about it as it begins to look more polished. It was supposed to open at the end of 2021, so it will hopefully open soon. 

Junior Samantha Exner, a frequent customer of Atomic, thinks that a new Atomic so close to campus will definitely be more convenient for students who don’t want to travel far. “I’ll probably still go to the Davenport one when I need to get gas, but in general I think I’ll use the Rock Island one more,” Exner said.

While students have a plethora of options to get their caffeine fix off campus, Augustana has on-campus options that may compete with a new Atomic. Sophomore Brianna Ebenroth works at the Brew in Augustana’s Gerber Center and feels like a new Atomic will cater to a different audience. 

“I think the Brew is still going to have a good amount of people that come in because Atomic is an energy drink, but if someone still wants coffee, the Brew is the easy way to go,” Ebenroth said. “As for transportation, even though the new Atomic is closer, it’s still not as accessible as just walking to the Brew.”

Ebenroth brings up the point that transportation is ultimately an issue for many students, and if they do not have a car, the new and closer Atomic is still quite far. It is also near many busy streets, so walking there could be hazardous. “As for transportation, even though the new Atomic is closer, it’s still not as accessible as just walking to the Brew,” Ebenroth said.

While Atomic’s energy drinks are admittedly cheaper than most coffees, they are still significantly more expensive than buying a generic energy drink from the store. Augustana’s C-Store offers Bang energy drinks to students at a cheaper rate, yet Atomic still has a pull that grocery store energy drinks do not. 

Exner believes that the appeal lies in the flavorings at Atomic. “The combinations that they do at Atomic are better than the generic store flavors,” she said. 

This seems to be a huge draw for students, and sometimes the experience of the drive-thru energy drink can be quite fun, especially when shared with friends or after a hard day of work. 

Ebenroth believes that the appeal lies in both the drink being made for you and the experience of getting off of campus for a bit. “Even though you can’t go in and socialize, it is something to do to get off of campus and just go on a little outing,” she said. “Sometimes people make it an incentive or kind of a time to get away from studying.”

As college students we all know that we often rely on the extra boosts of energy that come from caffeine, but it also helps us take a mental break. On really rough days when we need both, going off campus and buying a drink is a good way to meet both our physical and mental needs. “That’s good for Atomic,” Ebenroth said.

They also continue to beat out competitors like Kick Serve and Awake despite all of the businesses essentially offering the same thing. “I don’t know what they do differently, but I like the taste of Atomic better,” Exner said. Despite multiple businesses offering this product, Atomic tends to create the most buzz and attract the most customers. Most people are aware that when they go to Atomic they will likely be waiting in line for a very long time, but that fact rarely deters them from going. 

Ebenroth thinks that Atomic’s hype comes down to word of mouth. “I’ve always heard the name circulating,” she said. “I think that it’s really just word of mouth, because there’s not a ton of difference.”

A location in Rock Island is significantly more convenient for its local communities, as college students are not the only ones who love Atomic. However, this may lead to an increase in traffic on John Deere Road, which is already a fairly busy place. 

Access to another business reliant on caffeine has the possibility to be either good or bad for students. An Atomic energy drink has approximately 160 milligrams of caffeine in a 16 ounce drink, and a maximum of 400 milligrams of caffeine daily is recommended for adults. Caffeine can help students focus and be productive when they are juggling many assignments and extracurriculars, but for others, it may exacerbate anxiety.

Exner said that from a caffeine standpoint, “It’s probably not healthy. But, I mean, we’re college students, and sometimes it’s necessary.” Oftentimes, a drink like the ones Atomic offers are a good way to get yourself ready for the day ahead or reward yourself for working hard, as well as having a strong social aspect in its consumption. In order to juggle everything students have on their plates, caffeine is sometimes necessary. 

Caffeine obsessed or not, keep an eye out for the new Atomic coming to Rock Island next time you need a neon colored energy drink to brighten your day. While there is no opening date at this time, it should open within the year so college students and neighborhoods alike can enjoy it.