Goldfish Swim School to dive into former UES Lester’s space


Before long, Upper East Side kids 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 is diving into the longtime home of Lester’s, a beloved children’s apparel store at 1534 Second Ave. on the southwest corner of East 80th Street, which closed earlier this year.

The 10,000-square-foot one-story building is getting a “ginormous” pool — one 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 minnows “shiver-free.”

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

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

The schools include viewing areas for families, and the Manhattan one will have the same.
The schools include viewing areas for families, and the Manhattan one will have the same.
Val Paese, President, New York Region
Trained professionals teach children how to swim.
Trained professionals teach children how to swim.
Goldfish Swim School

Each week, more than 185,000 swimmers take lessons in the nearly 140 open Goldfish Swim Schools with another 153 in development by franchisors in more than 33 states and Canada.

Lee, McCuiston’s swim teammate, began as an instructor and — in 2009 — dove in with her friends and co-owners, Hope and Brian Bayer, to open their first Goldfish franchise.

As BHB Operations, the trio now owns 20 locations around the country — along with the upcoming Lester’s space, 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 schools in Astoria, Flushing and Glen Oaks are all putting on the finishing touches and should be open in early 2023.

Changing areas come with a Tiki vibe.
Changing areas come with a Tiki vibe.
Val Paese, President, New York Region
There are locations in the US and Canada.
There are locations in the US and Canada.
Goldfish Swim School

The Lester’s renovations will kick off in mid-January with a splashy opening later in 2023, said Val Paese, president of the New York region. “The corner is iconic and to be able to go into a space like that is unbelievable,” said Paese, the former CEO of the New York Health & Racquet Club.

The “belly” of the Gunite pool will sit in the basement along with the filters and mechanicals. “We are not renting out pools, we put in the correct dehumidification system and keep the air warmer than the pool so the kids don’t shiver when they come out,” Paese said. “No one does it to that extent. This is a true swimming school.”

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

“It’s not designed to feel like a locker room but it’s as if you are on a vacation and going into a Tiki hut,” Lee said.

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

Some of the locations have the space and time for birthday parties — but with lessons on tap from morning to night, that may not be possible at this Manhattan location, she said.

Peter Levine of Charter Realty represented the trio in the long-term deal for Lester’s — and is currently negotiating, and on the hunt, for other area swim spots.

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

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

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



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