Lost Dog Coffee in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington have
coexisted for 16 years without any problems. But something has clearly changed.
Garth Janssen, owner of Lost Dog Coffee, received a cease-and-desist letter from the law firm Driscoll
& Seltzer on behalf of its client Lost Dog Cafe. The letter demands that Janssen stop
using the Lost Dog name.
“I felt like puking when I got it,” says Janssen.
The letter implies that Lost Dog Cafe’s owners, Ross Underwood and Pam McAlwee, only
recently learned of Janssen’s business. But Janssen says throughout the years, he
has served employees from the Arlington restaurant visiting Shepherdstown who have
joked about the two enterprises’ similar names.
Janssen can only guess why Lost Dog Cafe sent the cease-and-desist letter, since he
says its lawyer, Richard Driscoll, didn’t offer much of an explanation when the two
spoke on the phone.
“He was really curt with me,” says Janssen. “He said, ‘You might as well just do this,
because my client’s got the capital and we’ll pursue this. You don’t have a leg to
Janssen says his coffee shop’s inclusion in
The Washingtonian’s Best of Shepherdstown feature in July may have triggered the riff, since he says Driscoll alluded to the fact that
recently, too many customers have been mistaking Lost Dog Cafe for Lost Dog Coffee.
Janssen also speculates that the Arlington restaurant’s sudden sensitivity about the
shared name may have something to do with its recent expansion. According to its website,
Lost Dog Cafe opened a second location in McLean last year and a third outpost in
South Arlington in January, and plans to open a fourth location in Dunn Loring this
summer. (By comparison, Janssen and his teenage sons, along with four employees, run
his small shop in Shepherdstown.)
Reached by phone, Driscoll said he had instructed his clients not to speak to media.
Asked if he could explain why Lost Dog Cafe’s owners are taking action now after so
many years of peacefully coexisting with Lost Dog Coffee, Driscoll said, “It’s not
that I can’t. It’s that I decline to.”
Janssen isn’t going down without a fight. He has launched a campaign to protect his
business. With the help of a friend, he set up the website lostdogcoffee.us, which
contains information about the feud with Lost Dog Cafe, including a copy of the cease-and-desist
letter. In explaining his campaign on the website, Janssen writes: “To beat up on
a local company when no harm is being done is outrageous.”