Willy Latzo and Ramona Aygen, husband and wife and partners in the new Idyllwild Fitness Center scheduled to open on or before March 1. Photo by Cid Castillo

In what is typically a slow time for Idyllwild merchants, five new businesses are opening their doors in a vote of confidence in the Hill’s economic recovery.

First, and of particular interest to fitness buffs, Mile-High Fitness (MHF) has been sold to professional boxer, martial arts practitioner and longtime gym owner Willy Latzo. In addition to competing in professional sports, Latzo has owned gyms for more than 20 years. He and wife Ramona, natives of Berlin, Germany, are taking over not only the MHF space, but also the adjacent former Spiritual Living Center area.

Lazlo will call the new expanded gym the Idyllwild Fitness Center (IFC). A fixed price monthly membership will include all classes and personal training. Two of the classes he plans to offer are the Brazilian workout craze Zumba as well as his own trademarked workout program called Funfight. On his website, Lazto describes Funfight as a “symbiosis of cardiovascular workout and martial arts, at a punching bag, that includes multifaceted entertainment components, accompanied by music and is a unique special workout in a 30 minute session.” Latzo also plans to provide self-defense, anti-bullying classes for children. Latzo is buying all-new workout machines to replace the MHF machines, which will be used until the new equipment arrives in about four months.

Latzo is a four-time world champion in Heavyweight Kyokushinkai Full Contact Karate, a European champion in Muay Thai Boxing and a German boxing champion, Wife Ramona Aygen, partner in the gym, also trained as a bodybuilder, beginning at age 16. A graduate of the Academy of Health and Nutrition in Hamburg, Germany, Aygen is certified in nutritional counseling and therapeutic massage. She will provide these services at IFC as well as personal training, Reiki, and weight loss counseling. “We want to create a family area gym and center,” said Latzo.

Latzo and Aygen plan to open by March 1.

In other business changes, Harold Voorheis, horticulturalist and past president of the Idyllwild Garden Club, is offering garden advice with a new enterprise called Idyllwild Garden Coach.

Voorheis’ website, www.idyllwildgardencoach.com, advises he can provide consulting, garden design, expert knowledge of area planting zones, garden project management and coaching on a package or per hour basis. In addition to being a lifelong gardener, Voorheis holds a B.A. in Biology with a botany major from Albion College in Michigan and memberships in the American Society for Horticultural Science, California Native Plant Society and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Contact him on his website or at (951) 659-3598.

Tony White and Kilo Reynosa give a karate demonstration, just one of the many activities that took place at the grand opening of The Gathering Place, a new community center for self-expression. Photo by Cid Castillo

Partners Virginia Lumb, Celeste Mann and John King are creating a community center for self-expression called The Gathering Place, to be used for classes, including King’s cardio kickboxing and martial arts kung fu, restorative yoga, dance, movement, meditation, events and workshops. Located on Saunders Meadow Road, across from Idyllwild School, contact any of the organizers for class and event schedules and other general information at (951) 468-7300. Organizers plan events such as movement and dance nights, spiritual cinema, art and craft fairs, psychic fairs and healing festivals.

Claudine’s Ice Cream is now Cookie-Doe’s, with new owners Ronald and Celena Stewart, who plan to maintain the ice cream, popcorn, fresh cotton candy, chili and snack menu similar to that featured by the previous owner. Hours are 11-5 most days and 12 to 5 on Sunday.

And finally, opening in Oakwood Village is “Chotchkes,” with an emphasis on women’s attire. According to owner Jill Golden’s Palm Springs website, the shop will feature “from subdued and spiritual to sparky and sassy” with an emphasis on pretty things.