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Lost Dog Coffee celebrates 15 years

By Staff | Apr 30, 2011
Cassie Bosley, Shepherdstown resident and English professor at Shepherd University, grades papers outside Lost Dog Coffee on Monday, April 25. Bosley is a regular at the Lost Dog Coffee and said the shop serves ‘the best coffee in town.’ (Chronicle photo by Tricia Fulks)
Garth Janssen, owner of Lost Dog Coffee, makes a hot chocolate for a customer on Wednesday, April 27. This past month, Janssen's shop celebrated 15 years of business in Shepherdstown. (Chronicle photo by Tricia Fulks)
The Lost Dog Coffee has a gallery space inside where local artists showcase their work. Most recently the Jefferson County Photography Project displayed its work there. (Chronicle photo by Tricia Fulks)

By Tricia Fulks / Chronicle Editor

It’s Tuesday morning, and Garth Janssen stands behind the counter at Lost Dog Coffee. For 15 years, Janssen has paced behind the coffee bar taking, and memorizing, orders.

Regulars, like Jacob Pratt, who recently moved back to the area from the Outer Banks, don’t even need to tell Janssen what they want. He just makes it.

“I’ve been coming here since the day they opened – 15 years,” Pratt said. “They’ve always been the alternative to other coffee shops.”

This past month Lost Dog Coffee celebrated 15 years in business, an accomplishment Janssen said is difficult to reach for most independent coffee houses. But what Janssen and his wife at the time, who he said is still a big part of the business’ success, set out to do 15 years ago did not exactly involve a business plan.

Janssen refers to it as a “research project” for individuals with no real experience in making coffee.

“We had no agenda other than offer a place for people to congregate as a community,” he said.

Janssen said the first three days Lost Dog’s doors were opened, the shop’s “marketing plan” was to give everything away for free. On the fourth day, he started charging; and people kept coming back.

“If you allow the community to define what you are … when they see that, they will just keep coming,” he said.

Janssen thinks a big factor for the shop’s success is because Lost Dog represents “the more colorful nuts and bolts of Shepherdstown.

“This is a community project – this whole thing happening here,” he said.

He added, “We could not make 15 years if it was not for the community participation.

Jim Maddy and Jon “Gojo” Gaujot, both Shepherdstown residents, frequent the Lost Dog. Maddy expressed a sense of community in the German Street shop – the place where he had his first cup of coffee.

Gaujot, who used to run Badass Coffee in Hawaii, said Lost Dog has a feel like no other coffee shop in town.

“I have to say overall appeal of Garth’s coffee shop is right where it needs to be,” he said. “He’s right on the money.

And both Maddy and Gaujot said Janssen bring in great artists to showcase their work.

Janssen said the community members tell him what they want and he organizes it to make it a reality.

When artist Ashli Cheshire wanted to paint Lost Dog’s bathroom, turning it into its own art piece, Janssen let it happen and said “she’s a force to be reckoned with.

“People are not paying for anything but the environment. They’re not paying for the coffee,” Janssen said. “People almost get the coffee as a gratuitous afterthought.

Janssen said the past 15 years have been a “wild trip,” and he believes that the Lost Dog has built a place where people feel at home.

“If you don’t go to the Lost Dog, you will miss Shepherdstown,” he said.