Jan 25, 2023 - Business

San Francisco's outdoor gym LuxFit hits its stride

Dead lift at LuxFit

Lifting weights at LuxFit's East Cut location. Photo: Courtesy of LuxFit

Walk through Hayes Valley near Patricia's Green and you'll likely see a corner buzzing with bench presses, sparring and maybe even a dog or two tied up to a dumbbell.

What's happening: The outdoor concept, known as LuxFit, is the brainchild of Yotam Israeli, a personal trainer who, like countless others in the city, lost his job at the start of the pandemic when traditional gyms were forced to close.

  • Israeli launched LuxFit's Hayes Valley location in December 2020 and expanded to the East Cut a year later.
  • He says they're the only fully outdoor gyms in the city and offer monthly memberships, personal training and group classes.

Why it matters: The pandemic had a devastating impact on the city's economy and, in particular, small businesses. But the constraints also spawned creativity, and in the case of LuxFit, a place for people to stay healthy and pump iron outside.

What they're saying: "As a small-business owner, you're always like evolve or die," Dave Karraker, who co-owns MX3 Fitness, told Axios.

By the numbers: Karraker says that around 15% of the 140 local gyms that are a part of the San Francisco Independent Fitness Studio Coalition — of which he's a board member — shut down between 2020 and 2022.

  • "Big box" gyms, like 24 Hour Fitness, shut down several locations across the city as well.
  • Meanwhile, outdoor boot camps and even dance classes in the park popped up to fill the fitness void.

Details: Israeli says LuxFit has 45 fitness coaches and almost 500 members, with its eyes set on expanding to a third location.

  • Yes, but: He also remembers when it first launched, having to lug equipment in and out of the shipping container storage by himself and sitting for hours at a time with no clientele.
  • "Running a business, there are a lot of really amazing days," he said. "There are also a lot of dark days."

What we're watching: Luxfit's Hayes Valley location is on one of the six parcels that Supervisor Dean Preston has identified as places to build affordable housing. Will that happen, or will small businesses in the area, like Ritual Coffee and the Biergarten, remain?

  • And, will people continue to enjoy lifting weights outside as the threat of COVID-19 wanes, or will they retreat back indoors?
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