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Follow Your Heart® Celebrates 40 Years! A Love Story

Published April 10, 2013

By: Bob & Paul

The year 1970 saw a great deal of change for many of us. We (Bob and Paul) were in the process of beginning a new life in Los Angeles, having recently arrived from the Midwest in pursuit of the California Dream. At the same time, another set of friends, Michael Besancon and Bill Michaels, were on an adventure of their own. They were hitchhiking up to Mount Shasta, believed to be a focal point for spiritual energy, with the intention of meditating and hopefully finding, in Michael’s words, “some direction for my life”. The two were given a lift by people from the Arcata Food Co-op, also on their way to Shasta to attend a meeting of an organization called OM, (Organic Merchants) a collection of folks from Northern California who ran natural food co-ops. Inspired by what he heard at the conference, Michael returned to Canoga Park, and within two weeks, he had opened a small vegetarian lunch counter in the back of a 1300 square foot health food store known as Johnny Weissmuller’s American Natural Foods. The store was on Owensmouth Avenue, near Sherman Way, not far from our apartment. We stopped in often for the good food and the good vibes. Regulars referred to the place affectionately as Johnny’s, and its popularity grew rapidly. Within the first year, more help was needed. Having plenty of time on our hands, we signed on to help Michael, and were soon joined by another friend of his, Spencer Windbiel. Soon, our vision became clear, and the die was cast. We formed a partnership, bought the store, and Follow Your Heart was born.

So much has happened since those early days. It’s a wonderful story. And as we look back upon those years, it is clear that the story of Follow Your Heart is really the individual stories of the thousands of employees, customers and friends who have passed through this place over the past four decades.

Now during our 40th year anniversary, we are moved to reflect upon the amazing and rich culture which has grown out of that early vision we shared. This year we are planning many special events to celebrate what has come to be known as “The Heart”.

Today, as the remaining two founders, we have the great pleasure of getting to hear people share their anecdotes and reflections about the part this simple gathering place has played in their lives. You might have noticed the faded old photo board in the front of the store which asks “How Long Have You Shopped at Follow Your Heart?” Years ago, we decided to put this up, since it was so common for people to tell us how long they had been coming. It was a way for us to honor them and their contributions. After a while, it became kind of a fixture, but now, as part of this celebration, we want to expand that simple photographic history of the people who made Follow Your Heart, and are inviting you to share with us your memories from this forty year period.

A sentiment we often hear expressed is that Follow Your Heart is so much more than a place to merely purchase goods or grab lunch. There is an inexplicable energy in and around this space which seemingly has the power to transform in a most positive way. Here, people have met the love of their life. They have brought their newborns for their first outing. Some have found life-altering inspiration, and others have come of age. Often, we have sought the comfort of good food and caring souls, and so many have come together in joy with friends.
You have told us your stories over the years. Now, we are asking you if you would be willing to share them in a more public way. We appreciate you all so much for what you have created here. As part of this celebration, we want everyone to see how the collective stories of each of you have come together to weave the fabric of Follow Your Heart’s history and culture. Let us put your memories on display as part of our story in a way that will help us all to see the true nature of our interconnectedness, our Oneness. We feel it. We have always felt it. This is an opportunity for us to put it together for all to see and enjoy in a common experience.

If you are interested, please, send us your stories, photos, clippings and memorabilia. We will be happy to accept anything you wish to offer, via e-mail at info@followyourheart.com, or addressed to the store at 21825 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, CA 91303. Better yet, bring them in and let us take your picture to add to our collection. Any questions you have can be addressed either by e-mail or you can stop into the Follow Your Heart office for information about this project.

Thank you again for all that you have done to make Follow Your Heart a place which we are proud to say we are a part of.

Peace, Bob and Paul

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