Back in business

Posted on 16 April 2014



Nicole Nichols

By Powell Cobb


Bainbridge is a town rooted deep with tradition. That’s one of the reasons why native Nicole Nichols decided to move back after graduating from Auburn in 2007. She wanted to live in a place where people knew her name and cared about her.

She realized there wasn’t a better place to live than where she was born and raised.

“Growing up here was good,” said Nichols. “I kicked and screamed to get out of here, and once I got away from it I realized how good our community is. You miss it. I love the fact that everybody knows your name. Little things like your pharmacists knowing who you are and stuff.”

Returning home with a B.A. in communications, Nichols wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She felt like she needed to start over and try something new, but wasn’t sure what.

She was also having reoccurring dreams about working in retail.

One day while having her teeth cleaned, Nichols’ dentist mentioned opening a women’s clothing store.

“I got the idea from there and opened Bella’s a week later,” Nichols said.

Bella’s on Shotwell Street is a women’s clothing boutique that has become popular in Bainbridge for its youthful fashion and caring service. Nichols’ mother had run a travel agency out of the building for 10 years, but it was empty at the time she decided to turn it into a store.

After a small loan from her granddad and a trip to the Atlanta market, she opened Bella’s doors in July 2010. She was 26-years-old.

“I just went for it,” Nichols said. “But I had no idea what I was doing.”

Nichols said she had plenty of support from friends and family in Bainbridge, but still struggled in the early days. Being her first job and the only employee at the store, working at Bella’s stretched Nichols thin.

“There were times where I felt like I made a huge mistake,” Nichols said. “But you have to push on through. The first Christmas I ran out of paper supplies. But that’s the great thing about living in Bainbridge is that they’re forgiving. They want businesses here, and they know you’re learning and you’re young. The community got behind me.”

Things began to smooth out, and soon Nichols was in full control of Bella’s. After almost two years of working along, she began to hire extra hands. Now there are full time and part time employees.

This summer, Nichols is getting married to her fiancé, then moving to Auburn for him to go to pharmacy school. But she doesn’t plan on staying gone for long.

“We want to come back in 4 years,” she said. “I just feel like there’s a good thing going on in Bainbridge. We really put our time and effort into building something here and I don’t want to leave it. So I’ll continue working. There’s a good thing going on here and I’m not just going to walk away.”

As a hard working Bainbridge native, there isn’t much more she could ask for.

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