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Restaurant and Market Make Healthy Choices

Restaurant and Market Make Healthy Choices THE BRIEFING Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park is known for both its heart-healthy cuisine and heart-warming service. Bob Goldberg says that when he and his co-owners opened the business in 1970, there was a “revolution of thinking among younger people.” The “natural food movement” inspired a greater interest in sustainable, organic alternatives to chemically processed food. “Follow Your Heart was born in that womb,” Goldberg says. The combination restaurant and vegetarian/vegan market offers a variety of healthy and environmentally friendly products. Although the atmosphere of 2004 is different from the natural food mood of the 1970s, the owners and customers maintain their values, and Follow Your Heart maintains its popularity. Follow Your Heart’s lasting success lies in customer loyalty. Goldberg says that at the business, they focus on the product and that the “nature of the service,” – the way they interact with their customers, is an integral part of that product. A large poster at the front of the store has photographs of a number of Follow Your Heart customers, many of whom have shopped at the market and eaten at the caf & #233; since its inception. Many of the customers and employees at Follow Your Heart today are the sons and daughters of the original Heart enthusiasts. He described why the business has succeeded for so long. “Follow Your Heart survived that generation turn which is usually a challenge for family owned businesses. There is such a great depth of customer and employee support that the business has, in a certain sense, a life of its own. When customers express an interest in something new, we listen, and we try to find what they’re looking for. Recently, there’s a strong movement toward raw foods, for example. We understand vegetarians and vegans because they constantly update us on their recent food choices. It’s another way for us to interact positively within our community niche. “Since our business is based on altruistic values, it’s a challenge to remain in business over several decades. In the retail food business, when there’s an economic downturn, an earthquake, or a Whole Foods store opening nearby, it’s a significant hit. The first obligation of a business is to stay in business, and when we reached a very unstable period in the late ’90s, we went to our customers for help. We created a program called Friends of the Heart, and asked our customers to invest in us. A number of customers made significant investments over a two-year period just enough to get us over that bump.” Heather Paul

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