Miami-Dade County

Loyal Porky’s customers have a beef: Their mom-and-pop gym going national

Cheena Nuñez and Marvin Cardenas workout biceps at the old Porky’s Gym on Coral Way. Donna Cabrera opened the gym in 1991, but sold it to national chain Youfit Health Clubs. Porky’s Gym was one of the few mom-and-pop gyms that catered to hardcore lifters.
Cheena Nuñez and Marvin Cardenas workout biceps at the old Porky’s Gym on Coral Way. Donna Cabrera opened the gym in 1991, but sold it to national chain Youfit Health Clubs. Porky’s Gym was one of the few mom-and-pop gyms that catered to hardcore lifters. For the Miami Herald

West Miami-Dade resident Ivan Reyes has been visiting Porky’s gym in the Hammocks area religiously since he was 17. Whether it was to pump iron or simply chat with friends, the gym was a second residence.

“It’s a home away from home,” said Reyes, 28. “I’ve been to other gyms, but I always end up at Porky’s.”

Last week, Reyes learned Porky’s, with four locations — Coral Way, Hammocks, Miller and Hialeah — was bought by national chain Youfit Health Clubs, leaving him heartbroken.

“Things weren’t up-to-date at Porky’s, but when you are home, you don’t complain and you are grateful for what you have,” Reyes said.

Donna Cabrera purchased the first Porky’s gym in the Hammocks area back in 1991 with the premise of providing an affordable price to members. At that time, it was one of the few gyms open 24 hours a day, seven days a week catering to police officers, firefighters and those who worked the swing shift. It was a gym for serious lifters, attracting famous athletes and celebrities including professional wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

“What really made Porky’s are the members,” she said in a phone interview.

Youfit was founded by Rick Berks, who grew up in Pompano Beach and ran several health clubs before launching the national brand in 2008. The first Youfit opened in St. Petersburg. The fitness club’s mission is to improve members’ health, Youfit COO J.J. Creegan said.

“Our goal is to help everyone look better, feel better, and live longer,” he said.

Creegan said he understands how Porky’s gym members feel about the transition.

“A gym for a lot of people can be a home away from home and you build relationships with the members and the staff,” said Creegan, who has answered members’ concerns via social media. “We will operate the clubs where we can continue to grow and attract more members so it can be an even bigger community in Miami-Dade of YouFit Members.”

Youfit is a fitness center and it’s not built for powerlifting. Soon, the four locations will have new machines and a different look. The always-open operation will remain at the former Porky’s gym locations. Current staff will remain. Youfit already has five locations and plans are to have more in the Miami-Dade County area soon.

What set Porky’s gym apart was it was a mom-and-pop gym where the sounds of plates and dumbbells ruled.

“No one comes here to talk,” said Jose Amador, wearing a Porky’s Gym T-shirt during a workout in Coral Way. “Everyone here is focused. Everyone is nice and casual. There are no excuses. When you walk in here there are no excuses. That has always been the theme of this place. Get in here and get the work done.”

Yvette Bassett has worked out for 13 years and she introduced weight training to all her children at Porky’s in the Hammocks.

“I felt like there was a death in the family,” she said in a phone interview. “That’s how I felt. I am in mourning.”

But Cabrera said the change will be for the best.

“We wanted to provide more for the members,” she said. “They will provide new equipment things we couldn’t do and upgrade the location.”

For Reyes, he will miss the feeling of having an extended family.

“The difference is that it was a family feel,” he said. “I’ve met people that I’ve known for 10 years. It was a hardcore gym. They weren’t trying to sell you a look, but instead you were here to work out.”

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