Jan. 10, 2023
People of PROXY: Yotam Israeli, LUXFIT
Our third feature for the PEOPLE OF PROXY series is with Yotam Israeli, the owner and founder of LUXFIT, an outdoor gym that empowers people to push past their limits and reach their goals in a fun and energizing environment. Cassiopea McDonald, PROXY’s Program Director, interviewed Yotam to hear more about how they got started, growing a business during the pandemic, and his experience at PROXY.
Cassiopea McDonald: Tell us about LUXFIT, your business, and who you are.
Yotam Israeli: I’m originally from Israel but grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. I studied finance at the University of Wisconsin and, after doing it for a while, realized it just wasn’t for me. Growing up, I struggled with a lot of self-doubts. I wanted to work with people and help them overcome those types of insecurities. That realization led me to coach and manage gyms, which I have been doing for almost twelve years.
LuxFit was founded during COVID in response to the indoor gyms shutting down. I’ve lived in Hayes Valley for about five years, and during the pandemic would come to PROXY to work out, use the monkey bars and train my personal training clients. At that time, I realized a lot of my friends in the fitness industry and in the Hayes Valley neighborhood weren’t able to exercise due to gyms being closed. We really wanted to find a way to support both the neighborhood, as well as fitness professionals who didn’t have work due to mandated COVID closures. We started LuxFit as a trainer-first facility and made sure the fitness professionals in the city are able to live here and provide the community with a safe space to work out.
CM: How did starting your business during the pandemic change your business goals and your perception of the PROXY space?
YI: I think the main thing we’ve noticed is that San Francisco, in general, and Hayes Valley, in particular, is lacking other good quality public outdoor spaces. You can go to a park and read a book, but there are not a lot of public spaces like PROXY where people are welcome to come and just hang out – to drink coffee, grab a seat or be able to work outside. When COVID shifted people to working from home when they came to PROXY, it was the only time they’d been able to leave their homes all day. With the opening of LuxFit’s outdoor gym, people were able to breathe fresh air and work out without fear or risk of contamination. A lot of people from the community still wouldn’t even leave the house if they didn’t come here. Every day, we see the health benefits of this outdoor space for the neighborhood and hope to see PROXY and our outdoor training sticking around for a very long time!
CM: You’ve been one of the PROXY tenants who have both activated the plaza on a daily basis but have also taken over a stewardship role of the space. What does that mean to you?
YI: When we first started during the COVID lockdown, I’d come to PROXY at 6 in the morning. It was definitely a different scene than what it is now (two years later). During that time, there would be a lot of trash or debris laying around, and people didn’t feel 100% safe being there. It was really unfortunate, but we had several people getting harassed at Patricia’s Green, and they’d walk over to hang out with us because there were a bunch of people there. Thankfully, with us being active and cleaning up the space, we were able to bring life to the space during this exceptional time. Now, the vendors feel a lot safer, the park feels safer, and hopefully, people walking by themselves also feel safer. It was nice for us to be able to take more responsibility for the area and give back to the community in this way.
CM: You have other locations in the City. How is PROXY different, and what makes it special?
YI: One of the cool things about PROXY is how community-focused it is. They do a great job hosting free public events throughout the year, such as the circus and movie screenings, and have also built a community amongst the vendors. We have an amazing relationship with JuiceShop, Ritual, and Terravita. It’s cool to see how those businesses are working together to cross-prompt and give members and clients discounted rates and other beneficial services. It has been nice for me to come in even when nobody is at the gym, and I now have other friends working in businesses at PROXY.
CM: The future of PROXY is unknown at this point. What is your hope for the future of the space?
YI: My hope for PROXY is for it to remain in some form for many years into the future. The vendors here have been able to employ about a hundred different people that work at PROXY. We all agree that housing is really important but equally important for people to be able to have public space that supports bringing together the community, helps people stay active, and to be able to shop safely for goods or different needs. PROXY is the only place in the city that allows this kind of open space to thrive, and its presence gives back to the Hayes Valley community.
CM: Any last thoughts about the PROXY or LuxFit?
YI: We are here to empower PROXY and Hayes Valley residents to feel safe and healthy. We want to continue to help this neighborhood, keep improving the space and our services, and give back to Hayes Valley residents in the future!
Say hi to Yotam and his team at LuxFit in the PROXY plaza and stay for a personal training, group class or Revive stretching session! Open Mon-Fri: 7am – 7pm, Sat: 9am-3pm, Sun: 9am-12pm