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From fitness to swim school for Big Blue ‘zees, in Deal Tracker


Erik & Wendy Skaalerud

Wendy and Erik Skaalerud were among the first crop of area representatives for Orangetheory Fitness, growing the concept in the Denver area to 30 units—including seven of their own—before exiting the system in 2018. “We knew we would get into another franchise concept,” said Wendy, and it was Chicago-based Big Blue Swim School that rose to the top as they evaluated brands. “It’s a next-level concept,” she continued, noting the program design, polished look and feel, and operational tools such as Lesson Buddy. “I want to call it the Tiffany’s of swim schools.”

The Skaaleruds signed on to develop five Big Blue locations in the Denver metro, likely starting in the Highlands Ranch market, where they also own Inngi Float, a therapeutic float concept they launched in 2017 with an eye toward franchising. The pair credit their experience building Capital Lending Solutions, a consultancy focused on franchise and SBA lending, for their ability to suss out a strong brand.

“We got to see some really, really good concepts, and some that weren’t so good,” said Erik, which helped as they did their due diligence on Big Blue. They sought a brand with a “deeper impact than just a great swim class,” said Wendy, of Big Blue’s incorporation of confidence-building and leadership components. “But the financial piece has to make sense, too,” added Erik, who acknowledged the high $1.7 million to $3.6 million investment range for a 10,000-square-foot facility but said it serves as a high barrier to entry and “insulates us from competition.” He said Denver is an underserved market and the swim school category is recession resistant. “When we were as broke as we could possibly be, we would still take our boys to swim lessons,” he said, in reference to the peak of the financial crisis and its impact on their lending business. While the brand only has five locations open, the Skaaleruds said it’s poised to scale following a majority stake acquisition by Level 5 Capital Partners in April 2017.

Big Blue Swim School

Big Blue Swim School touts its full-time teachers and 90-degree water.

Quick Hits

In the first quarter of 2019, Capriotti’s signed multi-unit agreements for a total of 31 locations in seven states, including a 16-unit deal with Pastrami Boys LLC for restaurants in Spokane, Washington, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls, Idaho, and Phoenix, Arizona.

Naf Naf Grill signed its first 10-store exclusive area development deal for Central Indiana with Indianapolis-based investment company 316 Investments, through its affiliate Fan the Flame LLC. The group previously operated Qdoba and Steak ‘n Shake locations.

Michael Tosto, who already owns three Title Boxing Clubs in Manhattan, signed an agreement for the entire island and will open at least three more gyms.

Gloria Jean’s Coffees signed a multi-unit agreement with Raed Naser to open at least seven new locations in the Northwest Indiana region and parts of Chicago.

Blaze Pizza inked a deal in South Georgia with restaurateur Brandon O’Mahoney, who’ll open three locations throughout Southern Georgia in communities such as Brunswick, Valdosta and Albany.

Monster Tree Service signed new franchisee Jay Weitzman, who purchased the rights to three territories in the North Shore region of Chicagoland. In Massachusetts, Eric Wellmann signed an agreement for two territories near Boston.

Melt Shop inked its first multi-unit development deal to grow in Florida, where CFL EATZ LLC will open six restaurants in Orlando and surrounding counties including Osceola, Volusia and Polk. Bob Picerne, principal owner of CFL EATZ, has a portfolio that includes Five Guys restaurants, airport concessions at Orlando International Airport and more than 10,000 apartment units across the country.

Del Taco signed a multi-unit deal for Brevard County, Florida, with retail and restaurant operators Navdeep Bassi, Shubegh Bassi and Aman Singh.

Deal Tracker is the place to find news of multi-unit development agreements, brought to you by Editor Laura Michaels. Want more? Sign up for the semi-monthly e-newsletter at franchisetimes.com/e-newsletter. To share your brand’s multi-unit deals, email details to lmichaels@franchisetimes.com

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