Caffeine & Octane

Empire from a parking lot

outdoor scene at Caffeine & Octane
Caffeine & OctaneMatthew Jones

Caffeine & Octane was founded in 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia by a Delta pilot, is how everyone tells the story. Mark Ritter is that pilot. His wife, Lynda, a marketing professional, managed the event’s branding. It began organically at a Panera Bread in Marietta, Georgia, where a few enthusiasts decided to make their monthly gatherings official. Ritter said, “They didn’t have a lot of business on Saturday morning, and the store’s manger seemed to like the idea.”

It grew from there by word of mouth and soon had to be moved to Sunday due to the crowd interfering with other businesses. Too many gearheads were showing up and staying too long.

Mark’s friend Ren Doughty then suggested he copyright the name and create a website. He did, and the event exploded. “After we registered the name and built a website it grew so fast we had to change the location. We tried a couple places before moving to the Perimeter Mall. I never meant this to be a business but after the website Butler Tire asked if they could pay to display, and property managers asked us to hire security and get insurance. So it needed to evolve.”

motorcycles at Caffeine & Octane
Caffeine & OctaneMatthew Jones

Then there were 14 sponsors, and Auto Trader bought the event. Bruce Piefke, an event promoter, was brought in to manage it, and within a couple years he bought it. “He’s doing an incredible job, Ritter said, “There’s such a demand it needed his skills.”

Piefke said, “It’s on verge 2,500 cars every month, and about 10,000 people. Cox Automotive, which owns Auto Trader, bought it about five years ago, and hired me. I purchased it about three years ago. I felt like a knew about the lifestyle of guys who are into cars and bikes.”

Today it’s the biggest monthly car show in America, and it’s free. Ritter added, “I produce events so I knew how to organize it and monetize it. The participants are the influencers; they go on social media, they talk about it, they promote it and give it value for sponsors. We got lucky, Mercedes moved to Atlanta, and Porsche America is here.” And then it was time to put on a show.

staff at Caffeine & Octane at the beach
Caffeine & OctaneMatthew Jones

"I knew one way to build the brand was to have a TV show. I knew I wanted Bryan Fuller to be one of the show's faces. I wanted the brand to represent his authenticity. It's not scripted. He's not a scripted kind of guy." Show hosts also include Rickey Gadson and Skip Smith, and it's a different format from other car shows; your mileage may vary. Watch it and decide.

About Caffeine & Octane at the Beach, Piefke said, “This is our experiment to see if we can take this on the road. Bryan came here about a year ago and told me I had get down here. Immediately. It’s the perfect place. We want it to be an event that people from all over want to attend.

“I like creating things. I like throwing the party rather than going to the party. I like seeing people enjoying themselves. We will do this again next year, about the same date.”

beach scene at Caffeine & Octane show
Caffeine & OctaneMatthew Jones