Making A Splash On Long Island

Children ages four months to 12 years will be taught to swim by one of the Garden City Goldfish School's 30 instructors.
Children ages four months to 12 years will be taught to swim by one of the Garden City Goldfish School’s 30 instructors.


When Goldfish Swim School opened its $3 million, 7,100-square foot facility at 650 Stewart Ave., it became the first New York franchise to be launched by this Michigan-based company. Currently celebrating its 10th year, Goldfish was founded by the husband-and-wife team of Chris and Jenny McCuiston back in 2006. McCuiston family friend Katie Lee is a co-owner of the Garden City site, which is also the seventh school she’s opening, with the others being in Michigan and Indiana. For Lee, who was a competitive swimmer in high school and at Michigan State, with and against Jenny McCuiston, Garden City was the perfect place to plant the initial Goldfish Swim School flag in New York state.
“One of our partners lives out here in Locust Valley and he has been coming back and forth to Michigan. He has two little kids and said that Long Island needed a Goldfish Swim School and Garden City would be a great start,” she recalled. “So we came and took a peek at it. We looked at the demographics and toured the village and it’s where any of us would buy a home if we were to move out here. We try to go into family-friendly environments and that’s why we chose Garden City first.”

The 7,100-square foot Garden City location is the first Goldfish Swim School to open in New York State.
The 7,100-square foot Garden City location is the first Goldfish Swim School to open in New York State.

This new site plays well into Lee’s view that their schools be “super kid-friendly and parent-friendly.” Colorful murals and faux palm trees create a tropical environment. Custom-built for teaching, the pool only has a 4½ foot depth at its deepest. With comfort being a key factor toward learning, water temperatures are kept at 90 degrees while the ambient air in the pool area is always 92 degrees. Parents can observe lessons from an air-conditioned viewing area.
Headquartered in Birmingham, MI, Goldfish Schools has more than 55 schools currently open or in development in 17 states. Credit that with having a firm philosophy in place that focuses more on how fast or slow a child develops their swimming skills versus forcing them to keep up with the pace of whatever level they’re at in the program.

“We are 100 percent dedicated to teaching little kids how to swim,” Lee explained. “If you were to call and enroll your child, we’ll ask how old your child is and what kind of swim experience they have. You’d give us some details and we’d say where we think your kids should go based on what you told us. Then they move through the program as they need to. If they’re super-fast, they’re going to fly through the program. If they need a little extra love, they’re going to stay in that one particular level for a little bit longer. We caution parents that we’re going to go with what Johnny is good with. If it takes him eight weeks, we’ll be in constant communication about why we think it’ll take eight weeks, even if the average is six. But we’re okay with keeping him there. We’ll keep you posted with what we need to work on and why it may or may not be working.”

The Garden City Goldfish Swim School kicked off swim lessons on June 7 and registration is ongoing. It will employ 30 instructors who will conduct year-round lessons for children ages four months to 12 years. If all goes according to plan, look for five more locations to open throughout Nassau County in the next five years, with Farmingdale being the next targeted community. It’s a notion Lee is optimistically bullish on.
“We’re trying to slowly bite off what we can chew,” she said. “We’re trying to develop a market and the franchisers, Chris and Jenny, have people calling left, right and center to develop locations. It depends on our finances and what we can do. It’s a good, but very expensive endeavor.”

Visit or call 516-267-5120 to find out more about Goldfish Swim School.

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