Meet Dave Thomas, A founder of Atomic Coffee Roasters. Dave says the birth of Atomic was mostly just really lucky timing. It all kicked off in the late 80’s/early 90’s when there wasn’t much option for coffee around. Being a Pilot for Air New Zealand, Dave would fly to Los Angeles where he lived for 3 months at a time, regularly travelling back and forth to Europe. Across the road from his apartment in LA was a little espresso bar that roasted its own coffee, he would hang out there, drinking cup after cup. Dave found watching the roasters work extremely interesting but they were from Mexico and the language barrier always stopped him from inquiring about the roasting process.
Whenever Dave returned to Auckland, he would head down to the CBD and drink coffee at Craig Millers cafe on Albert Street. The idea of coffee roasting never quite left his mind so one day he proposed the idea to Craig about roasting their own and that’s where the dream began.
After some time spent in the industry, Dave had made many friendships and local connections, Chris Presley being one of them. In 1992 Dave and Chris opened the first Atomic Cafe on Ponsonby Road. It went absolutely ballistic. He would go to work on a Sunday to roast and there would be people lined up, out the door and down the road! At that time Ponsonby was mostly fine dining and Atomic was something a little different. It was funky yet family oriented and a total hit with the locals.
4 years on, Atomic were roasting a lot more coffee and things were growing but Dave loved the roasting side and Chris loved the cafe, so they decided to go their separate ways and each focus on these areas. It was 1996 when Dave found the Kingsland site, instantly he knew it was perfect. Slowly but surely, as the neighbouring shops moved out, Atomic would knock the adjacent wall down and expand the cafe. In late 2005 Dave was approached by Cerebos to buy the company. At this time the cafe was humming; the growth of Atomic was profound and had become bigger than Dave ever anticipated but knew that the next level of the businesses development would need massive financial investment.
For the company to continue to its growth he knew it was the right move to make but Dave was adamant that the integrity of the company had to stay true to his original vision.
25 years on and Dave is a very proud man. He struggles to grasp where all that time has gone.
Dave thinks it’s fantastic a majority of the original staff are still working within the coffee industry, in some way or another. Many of them were first introduced to specialty coffee through Atomic “People move on, they go on to do different things, but they still have their roots here - which is really cool”. He says ‘that’s what I like about the coffee industry; everyone has their own little niche in the market, their own slightly different customer base and style. People get on even when we are all technically in competition with each other.” One thing Dave loves, that has never changed about Atomic, is that we know everybody by name and know his or hers order. “Boutique is a feeling, not a size, you just can’t package that up. It’s the vibe that Atomic permeates. “Atomic is like my baby, it’s amazing to see it grow. It’s great to see the extension and the refining of the brand. Atomic has never lost its roots and I think that’s fantastic, it makes me very proud.”