SHAG Studios salon owner: ‘Sometimes to grow you have to be really uncomfortable’

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

After moving back to Dayton from Seattle, Wash., Casey Nickole saw a need for a more polished and refined salon studio rental space in the downtown area.

She is now in the midst of finishing the upper level of SHAG Studios at 1126 S. Main St., located across the street from the old Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Once completed, the upper level will feature 12 private studios for personal care services like hair, massage and skincare, in addition to 12 chairs available for rental in a salon setting. The lower level will have more than 20 studios featuring micro-retail, artists, gallery space, office space and much more.

“Our industry is moving towards a lot of independent contractors and that kind of thing, so it’s just sort of meeting an unmet need in the downtown area,” Nickole said. “I just thought downtown was ready for a really great salon studio rental place.”

From corporate to the hair world

After graduating from Trotwood-Madison High school in 1995, Nickole did not go straight into the hair industry. She had a career in the corporate world for eight years and felt like she was stuck in a box.

“I felt like there was definitely a stifling of anything that felt creative in the corporate world,” Nickole said. “There’s not a lot of opportunities to contribute to the way things are done in a creative way.”

Nickole grew up as a “young punk rocker” that did her own hair and used it as self expression.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

“It was always part of my identity and I think it helped me sort of reflect who I was in the world in a way that was nonverbal, but also took a stance,” Nickole said.

In her late 20s she decided to go to Creative Images Institute of Cosmetology in Centerville and got her first salon job at Derailed in the Oregon District. After about a year, she had an urge to move as far away from Dayton as she could and that ended up being in Seattle, Washington.

Moving to Seattle

Within 15 years of living there, she created a salon company called BANG that she still owns and manages today.

“It started with one shop with four chairs and then I opened four shops in five years,” Nickole said.

During the COVID-19 quarantine and everything stopped in the hair world, she took that time to reevaluate her life.

“I really missed living around my family. I missed living in a smaller town,” Nickole said. “Honestly, Seattle is so much I would have never even stopped my body long enough to realize that I was unhappy there.”

She came back to Dayton for a funeral and recalled how comfortable, safe and good her home felt. Within six months, she moved back.

Back to her hometown

In 2021, her and a friend opened SHAG at 116 N. Jefferson St. She said she started meeting a lot of hair stylists, massage therapists and tattoo artists who were independent and wanted a really great place to rent out that wasn’t a cookie-cutter salon suite or studio. She set out to do just that by purchasing a former medical office building near the University of Dayton.

“So much of our industry is about aesthetics — how things look and how things feel,” Nickole said. “This building looks and feels dynamic, interesting, energetic and beautiful. I tried to create a space that looked and felt like a space I would want to work in as a 15-year seasoned stylist.”

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

She mentioned that she would not of had the confidence to buy the building and start SHAG Studios if she had not moved so far away.

“I’m so glad I moved,” Nickole said. “Sometimes to grow you have to be really uncomfortable and do hard stuff.”

An eye for design

Nickole is bringing a West Coast eye to the Midwest with a space that is artistic, curated and interesting to look at.

“I love interior design. I love things that are visually interesting and simulating,” Nickole said. “I try not to be too trendy because those things wear off really quickly. I think that I have mastered the art of taking current design and making it functional and making things look really expensive when they’re not that expensive.”

She does not have any “formal” interior design experience, but she did curate all of her studios in Seattle and recently renovated a house in the Oregon District that went viral on social media.

When asked how she goes about curating a space, Nickole said she picks things that she likes and sees if it works. Nickole has been taking spaces and making them more beautiful and interesting, since a very early age. She said that she grew up really poor and if she wanted something to look beautiful, she had to do it herself.

“My hope is that I can build a foundation for someone to come in and take that space and make it their own,” Nickole said.

She is looking forward to providing a space where independent creatives can come to grow their business surrounded by like-minded professionals.

Credit: Submitted Photo

Credit: Submitted Photo

Contributing to Dayton’s momentum

Many people in Dayton are starting their own vibrant businesses, and Nickole said she wanted to keep the energy going.

“Dayton has this really beautiful momentum right now and I think there are so many really talented, entrepreneurial people that are doing great things,” Nickole said. “It’s important that Dayton stays current and relevant and that we start taking some of these gorgeous, older buildings that we have and make them more viable and interesting.”

SHAG Studios is pre-leasing upper level spaces for March 1. The lower level is expected to be completed in early summer.

They are hosting an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 14 for people to check out the finished studios and learn more about leasing a space. Stick around from 7 to 10 p.m. for karaoke hosted by Sabrina Cox.

For more information, visit or the studio’s Instagram page (@shagdayton).

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