The former Little Dog Coffee Shop on Maine Street in Brunswick. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

A businessman said he has given up trying to open a new café at the former Little Dog Coffee Shop in downtown Brunswick.

Raffi Sulahian, who ran several cafés in California and said he recently moved to Topsham, wrote on his GoFundMe page this week that he has “reconsidered moving forward with the project.” Sulahian tried to raise $50,000 for an “ethical, eco-friendly” café, saying two investors backed out of the project. Fourteen people donated $3,060 before he stopped the fundraiser after receiving criticism from the community, including Brunswick State Rep. Dan Ankeles, over a letter to the editor Sulahian wrote to the Portland Press Herald in May blasting Little Dog union workers.

Sulahian declined to comment further. No one answered a knock on the door of the Maine Street shop Tuesday morning; no renovation work was apparent inside. Sulahian said on his GoFundMe page he will return all donations.

The coffee shop saga started earlier this summer when Little Dog workers went on strike June 10, claiming owner Larry Flaherty failed to fix broken equipment and address dangerous working conditions while refusing to bargain in good faith on a contract, among other complaints. Flaherty has denied many of the union’s claims.

In late June, Flaherty closed the shop and Sulahian started making alterations to the shop’s interior, including taking down the Little Dog logo from the front window. He told a reporter he purchased the shop’s equipment from Flaherty but didn’t buy the Little Dog business and had not taken over the shop’s lease, listed at $5,175 a month.

Patrick Bruce, an organizer for Workers United who has been working with the Little Dog union, said Tuesday Flaherty told the union he sold the business to Sulahian, a claim Sulahian has denied.


“Initially, we were told Raffi purchased the business,” Bruce said. “Then (Sulahian) said he only purchased the equipment and took over the lease and was going to start a different café in the same space. Then he said he was going to start a restaurant. Now he says he has no interest moving forward in the space.”

The union has requested information from Flaherty and Sulahian through the National Labor Relations Board about the apparent sale and status of the lease and is expected to receive those details later this week.

Bruce said the union is preparing to file a complaint with the labor relations board over the closure of the shop.

Flaherty did not respond to messages seeking comment Tuesday.

The shop is owned by Tondreau LLC. Tondreau’s listed manager, Allan Jagger, of Falmouth, could not be reached for comment.

Former Little Dog worker Chris Cushing said his old colleagues are looking for other jobs or taking job-training courses.

“Our union remains hopeful that a community member who understands the value of our work will purchase the store and recognize the union,” Cushing said in an email. “Many of us look forward to reuniting with our coworkers and the community.”

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