bannerFranchisee Stories

Big Blue Swim School Signs Its Second Lease in Michigan

The growing swim school franchise has partnered with competitive swimming champions, the Vanderkaay Brothers, to bring the brand to the Metro Detroit area.

By Helen Harris1851 Franchise Staff Writer
SPONSOREDUpdated 9:09AM 12/21/21

Big Blue Swim School, one of the nation’s fastest-growing swim-school franchises, has signed a lease for a new swim school, securing its second location in Michigan. 

The prime 10,000-square-foot location at 13805 Lakeside Circle in Sterling Heights is set to open in the spring of 2022. The new location will be opened and operated by Detroit-area natives and four-time Olympic medalist Peter Vanderkaay and his brother NCAA champion swimmer Alex Vanderkaay. The Vanderkaays were introduced to Big Blue’s great investment opportunity and best-in-class consumer offering by Peter’s friend, former University of Michigan teammate and the brand’s founder and president, Chris DeJong. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have this lease signed. This is an ideal location for our first Big Blue Swim School location in Sterling Heights,” Peter said. “We cannot wait to open our doors and start helping Metro Detroit-area parents help their children become strong swimmers through a positive and rewarding experience.”

Big Blue’s data-driven site selection process considers a number of important criteria during site selection. In doing so, Big Blue puts their customers, families in need of swim lessons, at the center of their real estate strategy. By making their locations easy to find and access, parents are able to provide their kids with the vital safety skill of learning to swim with far greater ease than ever before. This real estate strategy maximizes a parent’s overall convenience while also increasing brand awareness. The team identified Sterling Heights as an ideal place for a Big Blue Swim School.

“The team has worked hard to seek out locations and create an experience that makes it easy for parents and families to add swim lessons into their schedule,” said Chris DeJong, Big Blue’s founder and president. “We build our schools with comfort and accessibility in mind, and we are looking forward to making a difference in the lives of children in Michigan by living up to our company mission of showing them they can do anything by unlocking their full potential in the water.” 

The new Sterling Heights lease is just the latest phase of an aggressive growth strategy for the franchise, which has already signed agreements for 161 units in 22 states across the country. With a goal of reaching 170 units committed by the end of 2021, the brand is well positioned to be the leader in the learn-to-swim industry. 

The new store is in a former Toys R Us location, aligning with the brand’s strategy to place stores in areas where families are already traveling for their weekly activities and errands. 

The buildout will be supervised by Big Blue’s in-house construction management team, which has a consistent record of building stores on time and within budget. The approach allows former retail space to be reborn as modern, comfortable facilities, setting Big Blue apart from its competition and adding value to the property. 

Big Blue often fills vacancies created as a result of “the Amazon effect,” in which retailers reduce or close the number of physical store locations as customers increasingly prefer to shop online. Big Blue’s presence allows landlords to fill large, unused spaces, while also bringing customers with purchasing power to their properties. ? 

“The landlord community likes what we’re bringing to their properties because we're not dependent upon making goods and selling them,” said Big Blue CEO Scott Sanders. “We are a unique service model that can’t be replicated at home or be replaced by technology. What we do simply can’t be delivered on someone’s doorstep.” 

Big Blue is currently scouting new locations across the country, including multiple locations in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, California, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina, among other major metropolitan areas.

About Big Blue Swim School 

Big Blue Swim School was founded in 2009 by competitive swimmer Chris DeJong. The first location opened in Wilmette, Illinois, followed by four additional Chicagoland schools. In 2017, Level 5 Capital Partners acquired a stake in the brand, and pools are now open in Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Northern Virginia. Big Blue is currently growing through franchising with plans to have a minimum of 170 pools sold by the end of 2021. Big Blue Swim School's real estate expertise, strong brand, proprietary technology, and leadership support, coupled with its best-in-class consumer offerings, position its franchise partners for long-term success. To learn more about franchise opportunities with Big Blue Swim School, visit