Recovering Businesses: Goldfish Swim School


Emily Veenstra

Goldfish Swim school is one business fighting to recover from the lasting effects of the pandemic.

Emily Veenstra

Since the first lockdown, restaurants have been forced to become delivery and takeout-only businesses. Social distancing has limited the number of people allowed in buildings. Activities and gyms have had to close- and those that have not closed have had to put up a fight to bring members back into their facilities. 

Goldfish Swim School, a family-oriented swim school in Naperville, is no stranger to the effects of the pandemic. On March 13, the swim school decided to cancel its upcoming events such as “Family Swim” (a free slot of time where families can swim in the facility) and birthday parties. Ultimately, Goldfish made the decision to close its doors for the safety of its members and employees the following day. 

“Originally, we just made sure to be more cautious, like we would during any cold and flu season. About two weeks after that decision, we had to completely shut down,” Assistant manager Erin McKinney said. “For those first few weeks we had just the three managers working, but as lockdown became more serious we just had our General Manager basically running the whole ship.”

Employees at Goldfish were furloughed from March to late June. While some decided to find new jobs or file for unemployment, most of the younger employees went without pay for two full months. 

“Luckily, the owner was able to get a loan from the government. With the loan, we were able to pay our employees for about six weeks starting in May,” said McKinney. “Luckily, after about three weeks of offering this loan, we were able to begin the process of reopening.” 

The Paycheck Protection Program, and many similar programs, allowed for small businesses to pay their employees while they were stuck at home. This program was established to help ensure that those businesses would still have employees once reopening was possible.

Goldfish was able to reopen in the last week of June… But they had to adapt from the new guidelines put in place and recover from the months without income. The swim school, once having over 2,000 members, had to completely change the way lessons were taught. Everything from the number of kids allowed in a lane, to the way instructors were taught how to teach, had to change. 

“The biggest concern was making sure everyone was spaced out as much as possible, on the pool deck, in the lobby, even in the pool. We really put a focus on keeping everyone as distant as we could and keeping the facility as clean as we could,” McKinney said. “We additionally called every member who had been enrolled in March to check in and explain the precautions and see if they were comfortable coming back or not.”

Recovery has not been easy for many businesses. According to CNN Business, over half of the businesses that were forced to close because of the pandemic may never be able to reopen. For places like Goldfish, recovery is still far away.

“We still have less than half the amount of members as we did before the pandemic. But it is getting better,” said McKinney. “We’ve been able to adapt a lot more to our guidelines, adding more barriers in our lessons, finding ways to make sure everyone is following our safety protocols, and overall just trying to make class as normal as possible.”