Sometimes the light's all shinin' on me,
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me what a long, strange trip it's been.
-- Lyrics to "Truckin’" by the Grateful Dead
The American Dream remains alive for six graduates of Truman High School who are living the lyrics to this classic Grateful Dead song – “what a long, strange trip it’s been – as they juggle college, part-time jobs and a social life, while keeping their pride and joy alive and prospering.
Atomic Fizz, a unique fusion of crème soda, citrus and the blood, sweat and tears of Tanner Masters, Sam Heacock, Antonio Johnson, Mitchell Pritchard, Noah Witherell and spokesman Marc Driscoll, recently celebrated its one-year anniversary at the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce.
And while none of the soda’s founding fathers are getting rich, they know they have something special.
“Well, we made it a year,” said Driscoll who, like his friends from Truman, is attending college, working a side job at a local restaurant and “doing my best to have a social life – which isn’t easy.”
The brainchild of the Truman grads is bottled at the Polly’s Pop facility located near The Square in Independence and proves the American dream is not only alive and well, but cool and refreshing.
A year ago, members of the founding group were sitting around throwing out business ideas.
“We came up with the idea of creating a soft drink,” said Driscoll, who attends Metropolitan Community College-Blue River. “Antonio talked about a lemonade stand, and then, we starting talking about creating our own soda drink.”
They collected various syrups and flavors, including mint – which was quickly ruled as undrinkable – and sat in the Driscoll family kitchen until 3 a.m., trying to find the perfect combination.
“We consumed a lot of sugar that night,” Driscoll quipped, “then, we came up with the right combination and Atomic Fizz was born.”
It is now being sold at All Things Independence on The Square, Sebella’s Fire Pizza, Crane Brewing, Walker’s 5&10 Variety (in Holden, Mo.) and the Blue Springs 8 Theatre.
“And we’re going to be in a few more venues, but they haven’t been finalized,” Driscoll said. “It’s an exciting time. For one thing, we’re still around! That’s good news… and we recently received a grant from Drake University’s Hatchery Program.
“Sam and Tanner go to Drake (in Des Moines, Iowa) and what that means is we’re going to get enough funding that they can work 9-5 fulltime for the company to help our expansion.
“Are we getting rich? No (laughing), we’re not Coca Cola or Pepsi. But we’d like to be Fitz’s in St. Louis – we’d love to have a place where you could watch the bottling and eat dinner and make an evening out of it. It’s down the road, but we’re getting there.”
One of the biggest and most interesting items of discussion at the Chamber of Commerce event was the announcement of a new flavor – Sublime – a crisp, lemon-lime drink that is easy on the taste buds.
“I’ll be honest with you,” Driscoll said, “I just can’t drink dark colas. They seem heavy and sugary and hurt my teeth. With Atomic Fizz and Sublime we’re offering an alternative to the cola drinks.”
And they’re networking, marketing their product and reaching out to anyone who might help them get the word out to the right audience.
They have sent Atomic Fizz to Ellen Degeneres and reached out to local actor David Dastmalchian, who has appeared in “The Dark Knight,” “Ant-Man,” and the television series “The Flash,” “McGyver” and “Gotham.”
“David was recently in Kansas City for Comic-Con and wanted to bring him a case of Atomic Fizz, but he didn’t get our messages until he was already on the plane home,” Driscoll said, “but he was kind enough to answer us, so who knows..?”
This young group of entrepreneurs will keep promoting their drink and dreaming big dreams.
“We believe in the American Dream,” Driscoll said, “so why not dream big? We have the product, we have the ambition and we’ve already proved we’re willing to work hard.
“We’ve worked hard for a year and we kind of enjoy this balancing act of part-time jobs, college and Atomic Fizz. All our hard work is going to make it even sweeter when we get to where we want to be.”