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Posted on Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 5:55 a.m.

Goldfish Swim School to add 40 jobs at new franchise in Ann Arbor

By Laura Blodgett


The interior of a Goldfish Swim School. The company has franchises in Birmingham and Farmington and is opening another in Ann Arbor.

Courtesy photo

Goldfish Swim School will open its third location at 2107 W. Stadium Blvd. in Ann Arbor. Currently under construction, the 10,000-square-foot property is scheduled to open in August.

Catering to the small set, the program focuses on swim lessons for children ages 4 months to 12 years. Features include a 90-degree pool, a state-of-the-art water purification system, and a 4:1 student-to-teacher ratio.

The Ann Arbor franchise is co-owned by entrepreneurs Jack Barbat and Richard Simtob, who both have owned other franchises in the area. Barbat owns three wireless retail stores in Ypsilanti, while Simtob previously owned Talking Book World on Washtenaw Avenue and was part owner of the Wireless Toyz franchise.

He is currently one of the owners of Zoup! Restaurant System and the creator of

Goldfish Swim School was established in Birmingham in 2006 by husband-and-wife team Chris and Jenny McCuiston, an Olympic trials qualifier. The company opened its first franchise in 2009 in Farmington Hills. The schools currently teach an average of 1,500 students per week.

Simtob approached the McCuistons about buying the Goldfish Swim School franchise rights in Ann Arbor, where the property requires a minimum $1 million investment in order to build the pool.

“Ann Arbor is a growing community and a strong swim community,” says Simtob. “Jenny comes from that background and has really been able to create a program that resonates with the community. We feel fortunate to be the second franchise. I think Ann Arbor is lucky. We’re lucky. It’s win-win for everybody.”

Chris Thompson, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist in the 1,500-meter freestyle, will be the general manager. Thompson is a former swimmer at Club Wolverine in Ann Arbor. The business will be looking to fill 40 positions for teachers, deck supervisors and counter help.

The pool will be 75 long by 28 feet wide and 4 feet deep throughout, which Simtob says is the perfect depth for adults to teach kids 12 and under.

In addition, the space will hold locker rooms, a small retail store, a snack bar and a climate-controlled viewing area.


The entrance to the school, where parents can watch their children swim.

Courtesy photo

It took six months for them to find the location on Stadium, which appealed to them for its size, its large parking area and its position set back off the road. They worked with Neal Warling of Jones Lang LaSalle to find the space.

Located behind Ace Hardware and Arbor Farms Market, the vacant building previously housed Great Lakes Cycling & Fitness and smaller tenants, including a scrapbook store and a beauty school.

Attrition has happened over the last two years at the center as leases came due, and the bike store moved to Ace’s former location on Stadium, which is also owned by Ted Barnes of Ace Hardware, says Max Goldman, leasing agent at Ludwig & Seeley, who serves as the broker for that property.

“We have been more selective about the tenants we are putting in the center in order to make the right deals when they come along," he says. "It took us a long time to make this deal, but it’s a great opportunity for the center and for the franchise. And it’s a perfect use for Ann Arbor.”

He adds that having the school there will help in leasing the additional 14,000 square feet of available space to users that have the same customer base, such as a play area similar to Jungle Java or other operation.

“I strongly believe it will change everything back there,” says Goldman. “It may take a year, but it will. There are a lot of good swimmers in Ann Arbor, the high schools all have great swim teams and this is an activity I think parents will support.”

Though building a pool is a big cost commitment, it’s not as difficult as it might seem, the owners say.

The franchise is handling the construction work on the facility, and Goldman says installing a pool is not such a long term risk that it prevented them from doing the transaction: “It’s not terribly expensive to fill a pool, if it ever got to that juncture.”

Design and construction is being done by T.S. Quatro in Ypsilanti. For more information on the company, visit

Laura Blodgett is a freelance reporter for


Lets Get Real

Thu, Apr 21, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

A swimming pool - a business idea that's clearly making profit in two other locations. Teaching youngsters to swim. Not expensive competitive programs - of which we have many plenty for those who want that route. Just good old fashioned swim lessons to introduce children to a sport in which they can participate for a lifetime, to promote safety in and around the water, and to encourage physical activity. Good for them. Not so long ago the Ann Arbor Public Schools/Ann Arbor Recreation collaborative threatened to close Mack Pool because it was unsustainable. Just one more example evidencing the incompetence of government entities to operate effeciently and effectively. Go Goldfish - fill unoccupied space, create jobs, generate revenue, contribute to the tax base. Small Business - the enemy? You know, all those "millionaires and billionaires" who need to pay more of their share. Here is the perfect example of some successful small business entrepreneurs doing more than just "hoping" for change. They are making change. Has this one party town yet come to see the solution, or do they still believe it is higher taxes and more government that can fix everything? Best of luck to this new venture.


Wed, Apr 20, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

I agree with the comment stating it is a winning situation. I have heard nothing but great things about this franchise. From the professional staff and safety they uphold. I cant wait till it opens.... Hurry up PLEASE :)


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 8:47 p.m.

I am so happy about this the location is great but a lot of businesses just cannot thrive there. I think this might just be a perfect business for that location. I am really close to there and have 3 kids that will simply love this! :) THANK YOU!

BR Swims

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 7:46 p.m.

A "rec team" in 90 degree water? Kids are going to need a LOT of ice water to drink during practice. There is another option to the high priced CW or the comute to other towns- Mack pool offers a non-competitive swim class for kids on Wednesdays and Thursdays called "Swimming Fast and Fun".


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

Finally! I have been looking at classe in Birmingham, but just can't warrant driving so far each way for a quick lesson. This will be a great addition to the few options Ann Arbor has for young children's swim classes. Can't wait for them to open so we can sign up!


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

meanwhile you might like to try: Ann Arbor Rec and Ed YMCA Meri Lou Recreation Center (classes and private, independent instruction) Pittsfield Township Rec and Ed Ann Arbor Parks and Rec Ypsilanti Otters Swim Club Saline Rec Center who all offer swim classes for young children in various different formats. Birmingham does indeed seem a very long way to go for a swim class!


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

That's a great use for a sad corner of prime real estate.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

A state of the art filtration system is indeed needed with that many little ones using it-- :)


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

I am always happy to hear of accessible programs that get more kids swimming. Every summer there's a story af kids drowning. There is no reason for any child not to learn how to swim. That said, I feel it's a shame they couldn't help the schools out by running a program in the pools that they cannot afford to maintain year round. I heard that the middle school swim teams are in danger because of the budget cuts -a little outside cash in pool rental might've helped there. Of course this is a commercial program and can't rely on public buildings. Also, a recreational swim team? Ann Arbor could certainly use one -swimmers who can't quite stomach Club Wolverine's fees are forced to go to Dexter, Saline and Ypsilanti to compete. The Y has a team but doesn't compete with the rest of the Washtenaw clubs. But how would they teach racing starts in a 4-foot depth with no blocks? I wish them all the best.

John of Saline

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

For one brief, but memorable moment, the headline made me think this was a place that teaches goldfish how to swim.

Laura Blodgett

Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

Not sure about Open Swim, but I believe birthday parties will be an option. The owner of this location also said they will have a rec swim team. Rates posted on the website show a monthly cost of $78 a month for one child for 1 group lesson a week. Family discounts apply for multiple children. Looks like there is also an annual administration fee per child of $25 which caps out at $45. Again, this is what is listed on the website and not been confirmed by the owner of this franchise.


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

Do they have plans to do anything like open swim hours or birthday parties?


Mon, Apr 18, 2011 : 1 p.m.

This sounds so neat! I hope I can afford for my kids to try it out.