Cryptocurrency and t-shirts: how a broke Docklands duo bought a fish and chip shop

Cryptocurrency and t-shirts: how a broke Docklands duo bought a fish and chip shop
Spencer Fowler Steen

Meet the young Docklands duo who have purchased a fish and chip shop at NewQuay Promenade using nothing but cryptocurrency and T-shirts.

Mel Patil and Duke Holder went broke due to the pandemic, so they decided to start up a new food business called Designer Food 101.

The bank wouldn’t give them a loan and their own families called them “nuts”.

But the savvy business duo managed to make a few hundred thousand dollars through cryptocurrencies and RedBubble – an online marketplace for print-on-demand products.

And now after four “grilling” inspections from the City of Melbourne, Ms Patil and Mr Holder have finally opened for business, ready to take the old fish and chip ship shop to new heights. And so far, the reviews are good.

“We want to be supporting the community by giving them what they want, and also giving them a place to hang out and rely on,” Ms Patil told Docklands News.

Ms Patil said one of the reasons they chose to buy the business was because Mr Holder lost his job at RMIT University due to the drop in international students during the pandemic.

Ms Patil, who now works as an IT professional, said for the last year-and-a-half, she had been trading cryptocurrencies including Shiba – which she made a “fortune” on – Ethereum, XRP, Tron and other smaller coins.

She said she bought Bitcoin when it was trading at $18,000 – the price at the time of writing was more than $79,000.

“We were broke, we were broke renting an apartment in Docklands,” Ms Patil said.

Mr Holder said “no banks would touch us” because they were a start-up during the pandemic.


One tradie after another who came past … they all said the same thing, “are you crazy opening a business? People are closing down!


Ms Patil said even their own families refused to support them.

“Not even family would help us, they all said: ‘you’re nuts!’” Ms Patil said.

“We had to do all of this on our own, we had to finance it all ourselves.”

But the duo has saved thousands of dollars through doing most of the work getting the shop ready themselves.

While working full-time at her IT job, Ms Patil said she had worked at the shop in her lunchbreaks or after work, and sometimes until one or two in the morning.

Mr Holder said he had been clocking up 17-hour days for a month getting it ready.

And even after making the purchase, the road to opening hasn’t been easy for Ms Patil and Mr Holder, who said the City of Melbourne had been pulling them up on expensive, small technicalities.

“Weeks were going by, and people were saying, ‘why aren’t you opening?’ And we said, we can’t, the council just keeps moving the goalposts,” Ms Patil said.

“And it got to the point where people in the area were actually willing to sign a petition, we had a lawyer who said they were willing to represent us, we had so much support from the community because people just wanted this shop to open.”

“We’re barely breaking even at the moment because there’s no tourism, there’s no international students and no sporting events,” Mr Holder said.

Ms Patil said the previous owners of the fish and chip shop were a local husband and wife, who owned the business since 2009 as well as children’s play centres around Docklands.

“Basically, they wanted to focus on other things and the pandemic made things difficult,” Mr Holder said.

“And Mel and I knew that fish and chips was not enough to get everyone excited, we had to something different, add more.”

So far, Ms Patil said they had seen huge success in serving food out the front of the shop from bain-maries, as well as made-to-order food.

Mr Holder said they had already trialled a homemade burger, gourmet pizzas and “the crispiest fried chicken you’ve ever had” – all of which sold out.

“It comes back to the name, we’re called Designer Foods 101 because the whole motto is you design it, we’ll create it for you,” he said.

Mr Holder said so far, they had hired staff from a “mix of cultures”, including employees who were Sudanese, European, Chinese, Indonesian, and Persian.

“The mish-mash of cultures is coming out in the food,” Mr Holder said.

“Everyone has their own take on the food. We’re open to new ideas, developing things and bringing some life to Docklands,” Ms Patil said.

Mr Holder, who is himself from Thailand, said one of his many culinary ideas came to him recently after visiting sushi shops in the CBD with a food thermometer.

“The problem with sushi is that a lot of people get salmonella, it’s supposed to be sitting at 65 degrees [celcius] or above, or four degrees [celcius] in the fridge, which means it’ll be as hard as a rock,” he said

“I’ve tested this at four different sushi shops in the city with a thermometer, and I tested the sushi, and the median [temperature] was 18.5 [degrees],” he said.

“To get around this, our idea is a hot rice roll, which will have mincemeat like pork or beef in it which will tear off nicely when you bite into it.”

A Subway-style, select-your-own-ingredients method of ordering food is also on the cards, in which the more expensive $10 per kilogram or more foods such as scallops, prawns and cashews are at one end, and less expensive foods down the other.

Ms Patil and Mr Holder are currently looking for more staff. To get in touch, call 0451 089 078. Instagram: df101_melbourne

Join Our Facebook Group