The first thing to enter Kim Bassford’s mind wasn’t a coffee flavor or paint color.

It was speed.

Bassford had passed by the empty building off of 53rd Street in Moline for years while driving her kids to Franklin Elementary School or on her way to the gym.

At just 450 square feet, the property was small. But Bassford saw big potential with it being less than a half mile from Avenue of the Cities, a major thoroughfare home to an abundance of restaurants and shops.

“I drove by this building every day, a lot of people did, and thought it should be something,” Bassford said.

“Out of frustration,” Bassford said, she landed on the “something” this section of Moline was missing.

“There was nothing around here that was quick and somewhat good for you,” she said. “I’m a busy working mother. We’re always rushing. That’s just how it is.”

Bassford’s solution is QC Fuel, a drive-thru coffee shop that serves protein shakes, smoothies and a sample of snacks, she opened on Dec. 19.

Small, but speedy 

QC Fuel is fueled by a touch screen drive-thru kiosk, allowing customers to select their own drink order. You can choose to pay with a card at the kiosk or pay at the window.

In the early stages of planning her coffee shop, Bassford stumbled upon Nextep Systems, a Michigan-based software company that offers touch screen technology for restaurants.

“When I saw it, I had to have it,” she said.“If you’re hungry and in a hurry, this is the perfect thing.”

You can also order your drink exactly the way you want it, with an added shot of espresso or skim milk or without whipped cream.

“There’s just less human error,” Bassford said.

As far as Bassford knows, her shop is the first in the Quad-Cities to use the system. QC Fuel has also launched online ordering via qcfuel.com, where customers can order a drink a few minutes or a day in advance.

“I wanted to bring something new here,” she said. “It’s pretty slick.”

So far, there has been “a little bit of learning curve,” Bassford said.

That’s where baristas such as Bassford’s son, Brad Anderson, come in. They can answer any questions via a speaker button on the kiosk.

“After they try it, they love it,” Anderson, 21, said. “It seems like the greatest thing people have ever seen.”

For first-timers, questions may come up surrounding QC Fuel’s menu. Along with specialty coffee drinks such as a pumpkin spice vanilla latte, a variety of protein shakes with ingredients from Max Muscle Sports Nutrition in Moline as well as fruit smoothies and energy drinks are available.

Bassford, who works out several times per week, wanted to incorporate these types of drinks for others who are fitness-minded. QC Fuel also offers pre-packaged KNOW Foods, a line of natural gluten- and grain-free snacks such as cookies, waffles and protein bars.

On the not-as-healthy side are a range of blended lattes with flavors like s’mores and java chip (hint: these are for fans of Frappuccinos from Starbucks).

But, there’s one item you won’t find at QC Fuel.

“I absolutely refuse to sell soda,” she said. “It just doesn’t fit into what we’re doing here.”

Building a brand

Bassford has a big vision for her first-ever business. 

“I didn’t want this to be a cute little coffee shop,” she said. “I want it to be a brand.”

Her 23-year career in retail management took the Moline native to eight different states. She moved back home six years ago to be closer to family and saw an opportunity. 

“I’m a strong independent woman,” she said. “I wanted to empower myself and do something that was all mine.”

She made it her own by drawing the QC Fuel logo and designing a batch of cup sleeves adorned with quotes that range from inspiring (“Be humble. Be hungry. Always be the hardest worker in the room”) to silly (“You call them swear words. I call them sentence enhancers”).

So far, the quotes have prompted plenty of customers to share photos of their QC Fuel drinks on social media.

Bassford is already thinking about opening a second location, also in Illinois, later this year.

“I want to keep it growing,” she said. “I’m hoping it will be my legacy and something that the Quad-Cities will be proud of.”

Bassford is thankful she followed her gut after all those days driving by the empty property on 53rd Street, which formerly housed a custom T-shirt shop and a coffee shop called Java Station Espresso.

While she was renovating the shop, Bassford said at least five people stopped by to share their own ideas for the building.

“They told me they drove by all the time and had thought about opening a hair salon or a barbecue place here,” she said. “It’s like the little building of ideas.”

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Amanda Hancock is a reporter covering food, arts and entertainment in the Quad-Cities (and beyond).