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The Public's Corner

Address: 1/225 Lonsdale St, Dandenong VIC 3175  | Phone: (03) 9794 6697

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From an interview with Shpresa that has been edited.

The Public’s Corner started operating about four years ago.

We were initially part of a franchise, but we weren’t benefiting from the hard work that we were putting in, so we decided to rebrand. The Public’s Corner really felt like ours after we did that.

We have a modern Mediterranean menu which included eggs benedict, smashed avocado and pancakes. On the light snacks side of things, we have sweet potato & zucchini chips, bruschetta and so on. Then, with our mains, we have steaks, parmas, souvlaki, risotto & pasta options and a few popular burgers.

Because there is such a diverse ethnic background in Dandenong, we thought a Mediterranean menu would work. 

Business owner Shpresa standing behind cafe counter

Instead of concentrating on one type of cuisine, we brought in a few items from different areas and put a modern twist on it. We like to think that the food goes with the area.

Before The Public’s Corner, I worked in car rentals at the airport.

I had ten years’ experience working in customer service, and I worked a lot with corporate clients, so this was a great platform in starting my own business.

I left that job because I had two kids but, when they went into primary school, I decided to go back into the workforce. I didn’t want to work for anybody. I wanted to open something and be an owner/operator.

The original plan was to have something like a small café, but we came across this prime position. It was part of the council building, it’s on the most popular corner in Dandenong and we are opposite the iconic Drum Theatre. We also knew that a lot of offices were going to be developed around here.

It was a great opportunity to bring a modern café to Dandenong, but it was very challenging at the start. We had minimal experience and no choice but to learn on the job. We have come a long way since we started.

We make the best coffee in Dandenong, by far.

We’ve been told that by our customers. We roast our own coffee, which is a mixture of seven different blends of coffee beans.

We also cook everything in-house, and I make almost all of the cakes. We used to get them through a wholesaler but – one day – I tasted the caramel slice and it had nothing to it. I said to my husband Ben, who owns The Public’s Corner with me, ‘I am going to make my own.’ I did a bit of experimenting, and I could definitely taste the difference.

Now, we have caramel slice, jelly slice, lemon slice, Nutella cheesecake, Oreo cheesecake and I am going to start making berry ricotta and flourless orange cakes in the near future.

The majority of our customers are from Dandenong, and we have a few who come from Berrick, Narre Warren and Noble Park. Our customers include locals, business people, council workers, police and ambulance workers that service our community and a gentleman who comes all the way from Chapel St for our coffee.

He doesn’t work in the area. He catches the train and comes in every day.

image of a burger with chips and a soft drink in the background

We make an effort to support local businesses.

95 per cent of our produce comes from suppliers in the area.

Our food and veg is from the Dandenong Plaza and our meats are from butchers and delis within the region.

Our beef burger – which is one of our most popular dishes – is freshly minced beef held together in a milk bun. We get our bread from Noisette, a famous bakery. Their factory is based in Dandenong, but they are pretty well known in Port Melbourne. Even our eggs are from an egg farm down the road.

A lot of our customers work in Dandenong. They come to support me, so I thought it was important to support them. Freshness is a big thing, so I buy small amounts. If I run out of something, I can go down the road to get it. It isn’t from a factory three hours away. I know exactly what I’m getting from people that I trust.

When I was young, I used to come to Dandenong to support the soccer club down the road.

I can see that Dandenong has definitely changed over the years. There are more buildings coming up, more businesses in the area and the council has been awesome.

They do a lot for the community, and they support local businesses whenever they can. We have been here for four years, and nothing out of the ordinary has happened. I would recommend working in Dandenong to anybody.

If you provide good customer service, people are going to come back.

And when something is yours - and you have full control over it -  you put all of your heart into it.

Different things come up all the time, so we are forever experimenting with different flavours.

I expect that our menu might change in the future, but I think that our customers like what we do. That is why they come back.

Chef looking at food behind counter