Goldfish Swim School to dive into space of former UES Lester

Soon, the kids of the Upper East Side will have a new swimming hole where they can learn survival skills for the beach and camp.

For its first Manhattan location, Goldfish Swim School At 1534 Second Avenue on the southwest corner of East 80th Street is diving into the longtime home of the beloved children’s apparel store Lester’s, which closed earlier this year.

The 10,000-square-foot one-story building is getting a “gigantic” pool—that’s 70 by 22 feet—that will be visible from the street, the Post has learned.

The water will be heated to a steamy 90 degrees and the air to 92 degrees to keep its little ones “shiver free.”

With a depth of just 4½ feet, the pool is also designed for teaching — not laps or diving, said franchise co-owner Katie Lee.

Goldfish was founded in Michigan by Jenny McQuiston, a former swim instructor, who began researching the industry in 2004. Two years later, she and her husband, Chris, founded Goldfish Swim School.

Schools include viewing areas for families, and so will Manhattan.
Schools include viewing areas for families, and so will Manhattan.
Val Pace, President, New York Region
Trained professionals teach swimming to children.
Trained professionals teach swimming to children.
Goldfish Swim School

Each week, more than 185,000 swimmers take lessons at approximately 140 open Goldfish Swim Schools developed by the franchisor, with another 153 in more than 33 states and Canada.

Lee, McQuiston’s swim team, started out as an instructor and — in 2009 — dove to open their first Goldfish franchise with their friends and co-owners, Hope and Brian Byrne.

As for BHB Operations, the trio now owns 20 locations nationwide — with Lester’s space upcoming, and three under construction in Queens.

BHB began locally with spaces in Garden City and later Farmingdale, both on Long Island. Covid “put them in a pickle,” Lee said, so now the schools in Astoria, Flushing and Glen Oaks are all putting the finishing touches on and should open in early 2023.

The changing areas come with a tiki vibe.
The changing areas come with a tiki vibe.
Val Pace, President, New York Region
There are locations in the US and Canada.
There are locations in the US and Canada.
Goldfish Swim School

New York region president Val Pace said the Lester’s renovation will begin in mid-January with a grand opening in 2023. “Kona is iconic and to be able to move into a place like that is incredible,” said Pace, former CEO of the New York Health and Racquet Club.

The “belly” of the gunite pool will sit in the basement with the filter and mechanicals. “We don’t rent out pools, we install proper dehumidification systems and keep the air warmer than in the pool so kids don’t shiver when they come out,” Pace said. “Nobody does it to this extent. It’s a true swim school.

Parents can watch their little ones from the “dry side” of the facility behind a giant glass wall. When the lesson is over, they can chat with an instructor on the “wet side” and take their babies first to the showers and then to a unique private changing area.

“It’s not designed to feel like a locker room, but to feel like you’re on vacation and going to a tiki hut,” Lee said.

The pool water and air will be kept in the 90-degree range to keep kids from shivering.
The pool water and air will be kept in the 90-degree range to keep kids from shivering.
Val Pace, President, New York Region
When it opens in 2023, neighborhood kids are sure to have fun while learning.
When it opens in 2023, neighborhood kids are sure to have fun while learning.
Goldfish Swim School

Some places have the space and time for birthday parties — but with lessons on tap from morning till night, it might not be possible at the Manhattan location, she said.

Peter Levin of Charter Realty represented all three in a long-term deal for Lester – and is currently negotiating, and on the hunt, for other area swim spots.

Lester and Lillian Kronfeld started Coney Island near Lester in 1948 and eventually expanded throughout the tri-state area. His daughter and son-in-law, Sherry and Perry Shore, along with a nephew, Barry Cohen, now own and operate other Lester’s locations.

Jeffrey Roseman and Drew Weiss of Newmark represented the family in the deal, which asked a rent of $225 per foot.

“Goldfish is the perfect example of the new breed of experiential users that are taking over the brick and mortar space,” Roseman said. “It’s great that this Upper East Side corner will continue to play such a monumental role in the lives of children and their families, as Lester’s has done for so many decades.”

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