SHELTON — Ashley Tremblay’s dream is coming alive right in her hometown.

A graduate of Seymour-based Oxford Academy of Hair Design, Tremblay, 26, has gone from working in a 111-square-foot suite hidden in the rear of a larger salon in Milford to opening her own business in the historic Conti building at 415 Howe Ave., right in the heart of downtown Shelton.

“I am excited about it,” said Tremblay about opening Oala Hair Loft. “I feel like it has been a long ride to get here, but I am right where I want to be.”

Tremblay has been an independent hair designer, specializing in highlights and colors, for more than three years. She is also a licensed cosmetologist who has long dreamed of not only opening her own salon but also owning her own beauty school. Step one is complete.

“This is my chance to establish myself,” she said.

Tremblay has been handling appointments, along with her assistant, licensed professional Marisa Panuczak, for the past couple weeks, even though Oala Hair Loft’s official grand opening was Sunday, Jan. 26.

What has pleased her most about bringing her business to her hometown is the interest generated, she said. Through social media and Groupon, Tremblay said, her phones have “exploded,” and she is booked out three weeks already — and the opening is not even official yet.

Tremblay credits her friend and fellow designer Jennifer Palmer for her new role as business owner. She and Palmer worked in neighboring suites in Milford, and it was there that Palmer urged the newly graduated Trembley to open her own location.

“She told me that this is exactly what I should do … open my own place,” said Tremblay. “It took a lot of effort. There were a lot of learning experiences — learning patience, that was a big one.”

Tremblay said it took four months to get the business up and running, with major support from Palmer.

“I was in the suite on my own, so it was harder. I had to build my client base in a place I did not know anyone. I built a client base, and I felt that if I can build there, I can build where I began — right here in Shelton,” said Tremblay.

Tremblay, remembering the support offered by Palmer, a salon veteran who took her under her wing, is paying it forward now with Panuczak. Tremblay’s assistant is now handling all overflow clients, “so she can build herself like Jen helped build me.”

Oala Hair Loft offers children’s haircuts, buy one, get one free, and discounts for local businesses as well. She is also working with Shelton High School, taking on two special education students for work experience this coming summer.

For more information on Oala Hair Salon, visit https://oalahairloft.onuniverse.com.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com