A new Kenosha business got a boost Saturday from an Olympian.

Five-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Missy Franklin met with people, signed autographs and spoke about Swimtastic Swim School and SwimLab, which celebrated its grand opening Saturday at 6940 Green Bay Road in Southport Plaza.

While the business offers swimming lessons for kids and adults, serious swimmers like Franklin are more interested in the SwimLab — a tank that acts like a treadmill for competitive swimmers, with video analysis to help competitive swimmers work on their technique.

People who use the lab can compare their technique with a library of video of elite swimmers, including Franklin.

Franklin said the SwimLab tanks are a serious training tool for competitive swimmers.

“The cool thing about the tank is there is immediate feedback,” she said.

While many athletes can use video to analyze technique, it is much tougher for swimmers.

“It used to be that you wouldn’t have access to something like this until you were already on the national team,” Franklin said. “The fact that this is so accessible now is fantastic.”

Owner Kathryn Brothen said the SwimLab is the first of its kind in southeast Wisconsin, saying she sees the lab as a tool that competitive swimmers and triathletes can use along with their coaches.

Franklin brought along her gold medals.

“They’re heavy!” Brothen said.

Swimming in a strip mall

Brothen admitted it’s unusual to have a business like hers in Southport Plaza.

“Everyone is like, ‘You have a swimming pool in a strip mall?” she laughed.

Yes, she does.

Swimtastic is a franchise business founded in 1996 in Waukesha by a woman who started giving swim lessons in her backyard pool.

The swim school began selling franchises in 2004. In 2015, Swimtastic Swim School combined with SafeSplash Swim School, with franchises opening around the nation.

At Brothen’s Kenosha site, the swim school will offer swim lessons focused on children and families with a kid-focused curriculum and a pool heated to 90 degrees.

“There are only four kids in a class,” Brothen said, with students grouped by skill level. “We have classes for kids as young as 6 months old.”

Brothen said she has spent her career working in marketing for medical device companies.

The parent of four young girls, she said hoped to spend less time traveling for her career and wanted to open a business of her own.

She said she researched franchises for two years before setting on Swimtastic, saying she loved the family-focused business and the support the company offered.

Her swim school had signed up 300 students before Saturday.

“I couldn’t be happier.” she said.

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