SHELBY – Nicole Fortman, owner of Nicole & Co. in Shelby, still remembers the remarks made to her when she took out her very first bank loan.

“The man who gave me the loan said ‘I only see one problem, giving you this money, it’s that you’re going to be working with this many women and it usually doesn’t work’,” Fortman said.

Man and woman standing next to each other.
Nicole Fortman, owner of Nicole & Co., and husband Jason stand together at Friday’s celebration.

Nicole & Co. celebrates 25 years

Fortman and her salon staff celebrated the business’ 25th anniversary in the parking lot of 216 Mansfield Ave on Friday.

“My grandfather helped me get this started,” Fortman said. “I never thought it’d make it 25 years, but I’m pretty excited it did.”

While reflecting on the salon’s history, Fortman said she’s always had a full crew of great workers, and currently has two employees on staff who’ve been with her for 23 years.

Throughout the past 25 years, Mansfield Avenue has seen its share of changes. However, the salon remains a staple business in the community.

“Just watching this road (Mansfield Avenue) build up has been very cool too,” she said.

Celebration Photo Gallery

  • Row of people standing behind red ribbon.
  • Woman talking.
  • Man wearing gray suit with red tie and white shirt.
  • Women waving to crowd of people.
  • Man in green polo.
  • Man and woman smiling.
  • View of businesses from street.
  • Business sign that reads "Life is Sweet Cakery".
  • Chocolate cake in a glass display.
  • Salon front entrance.
  • Salon entrance cover.
  • Business sign with store hours.
  • Decorative banner hanging on brick wall.
  • Gray coffee trailer parked in parking lot.

New neighbors for Nicole & Co.

Fortman, along with husband Jason, recently became owners of two properties that border the salon, both are rented by fellow women-run businesses.

Drop the Beat Dance Center occupies 214 Mansfield Ave., and Life Is Sweet Cakery serves customers at 218 Mansfield Ave.

“We’re all three women-run businesses, so it’s pretty exciting,” Fortman said. “We’re super excited to have Hilary (Lester) and the dance studio next door.”

The neighborly additions have provided a spark for Fortman, who’s excited to see the growth of the trio.

“I still love rolling up here everyday,” she said. “Especially when there’s people on both sides that I really like and want here.”

Life Is Sweet Cakery grand-opening

Nicole & Co. joined with Life Is Sweet Cakery and owner Hilary Lester, to officially celebrate their grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony.


“This is the first time I can remember, as Mayor since 2015, that we’ve had a joint event like this,” said Shelby Mayor Steve Schag.

“Good friends, who were a part of each other’s history, are now making history in the City of Shelby,” he said. “That is truly a unique event for us.”

Man in gray suit with red tie.
Shelby Mayor Steve Schag thanked both businesses for investing in City of Shelby.

Lester, who was encouraged by Fortman to open her own storefront, said she’s inspired by her friend and fellow business-owner.

“She’s (Fortman) everything,” Lester said. “She’s one of my biggest cheerleaders.”

The opportunity to be situated next door to Nicole & Co. has been helpful for both businesses to support one another, she said.

“(Fortman) is definitely a person I look up to,” she said. “I would love to be in business still in 25 years, making cakes, creating and making people happy. It’s definitely a goal.”

Lester expressed her appreciation for the community and the support she’s received since opening the storefront.

“The local businesses supporting and getting cookies, scones, and things like that for meetings has been amazing,” she said. “It’s been hard to keep up with, which I guess is a good problem to have.”

Find more information regarding all three businesses referenced above by visiting their Facebook pages; Nicole & Co., Life Is Sweet Cakery and Drop the Beat Dance Center.

Staff reporter at Richland Source since 2023. I focus on the city of Shelby and northern Richland County news. Shelby H.S./Kent State alum. Have a story to share? Email me at