Ship to shore: Mildura’s famous shipping container café is moving

Shippy's cafe: a popular spot along the Murray.

Mildura’s riverfront isn’t the only place going through a transformation. Meet Michael Shipsides, owner of Shippy’s café.

An unsuccessful attempt to work at a local school canteen in Mildura led Michael Shipsides to a caravan that would change his life in a big way.

“Around the same time I missed out on that school canteen job, I came across a guy selling his coffee van,” Michael said.

Located on the Mildura riverfront, the van provided coffee to fuel locals at the farmers’ market.

The original Shippy’s caravan in 2013.His decision to purchase the caravan in 2013 follows 10 years in the wine industry, after previously working as a hairdresser for 26 years.

Michael sold a total of five coffees on his first day. However, he did not let a slow start deter him from turning his coffee van into one of the most well-known cafes in Mildura.

From there, Shippy’s Cafe became a household name.

Building his loyal coffee following, Michael moved his business to a larger space in 2015 – a shipping container.

“I’ve always loved talking to others and putting smiles on their faces – haircuts and good food and wine helped do that,” Michael said.

The Murray’s transformation

The Murray River provides the perfect backdrop for those visiting Shippy’s on their daily walks. It stretches across regional Victoria, connecting main towns Albury, Wodonga, Echuca and Swan Hill, hosting farmers’ markets and concerts during the warmer months.

The Murray’s twists and turns have been a popular attraction in recent years with many using the river as a meeting spot to connect with others. Understanding the community’s interest in the riverfront, the Victorian Government, the Federal Government and Mildura Rural City Council worked together to transform a 1.2km stretch of underused space into an enticing new area to strengthen community interaction.

Owner, Michael Shipside with his two sons in the background, Mitchell and Jackson.When complete, the $19.3 million project will extend Mildura’s centre into visitor- friendly parklands and community and event facilities along the river.

A new car park and installation of a footpath has already brought new visitors to the area near the riverfront’s Powerhouse precinct. This will form a central part in Stage 2 of the redevelopment.

As part of planning for this second stage of the redevelopment, Council made sure Michael along with 1,000 other community members were involved in the riverfront’s transformation during the past 12 months.

“After receiving investment in the riverfront, more people were visiting and lines were becoming extremely long,” Michael said.

“Moving to a larger site to put on more staff and expand the cafe was necessary.

“The Mildura Council were very supportive and saw the demand for coffee as the riverfront transformed into a social hub for the community.”

Outgrowing its shell

A resident of Mildura for more than 30 years, Michael has met many new faces who have lived in the town for just as long.

“People that have lived in Mildura for years are only now starting to visit this part of town and joining other families and cyclists.

A shipping container currently provides a home for Shippy’s café.“The new drinking fountains and benches have made this space such a nice area to relax in,” Michael said.

“There’s beautiful lighting scattered across the riverfront, making it look like a European city.”

Michael’s shipping container café has again outgrown its shell and plans for an even larger store front has been supported by the Mildura Council through the establishment of independent infrastructure including water and power.

A permanent structure with outdoor umbrellas and blinds will be built and allow a full-time chef to come on board. Michael envisions Shippy’s to extend into getting a liquor license and for locals to gather in the evenings to further grow the community.

“A glass of wine and a cheese platter would go down really well here and offer locals a bit more choice while enjoying connecting with others,” Michael said.

After missing out on that school canteen job all those years ago, Michael took a chance on unfamiliar territory. It’s a leap of faith that turned into a thriving business along the banks of the Murray.

It shows, some things really do happen for a reason.

Shippy’s Cafe works are planned for completion at the end of 2022.

Find out more on the Regional Development Victoria website.