Returning Pine River woman opens salon

Sheri Lillich is continuing family business traditions

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Sheri Lillich opened AC Hair Company in Pine River on April 1, 2023, after 15 years in the industry.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

PINE RIVER — Sheri Lillich is proud to declare that she is a third generation Pine River business owner after recently opening AC Hair Co.

Lillich is the daughter of Roger and Wendy Hoplin, owners of Bites Grill and Bar. On top of that, the 15-year stylist is continuing a family tradition by following in the footsteps of her uncle, Wallace (Spike) Wales, a well-known Pine River barber.

Spike was part of what guided Lillich to her career field.

"So in high school, the day that we went out to job shadow places, I went and job shadowed Spike at the barbershop when it was still at the Tom Thumb," Lillich said. "It took me nine years out of high school to finally say, 'OK, this is what I'm doing.' And I'm glad I waited because then I was serious and was able to actually hit goals that I set for myself.

"Spike brought me flowers my first day and this card that said, 'Thank you for carrying on the family tradition,'" she said.


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A Pine River-Backus High School class of 1999 graduate, Lillich has spent 15 years in the cosmetology industry, until recently all in Missouri.

"One of my goals coming out of beauty school was to be a national educator for Paul Mitchell within five years. I did it within four," Lillich said. "So I got to fly around through the United States to other salons and teach them, which also gave me the opportunity to take even higher level classes, to learn how to teach those classes to being able to rub elbows and take classes from some industry greats."

Continued education has been a major driver for Lillich. That's why, after five years as a national educator for Paul Mitchell, when she moved to a high end salon in Columbus, Missouri, she began learning about that salon's brand, Redken hair products.

After six years at that salon, a customer convinced her to open her own in Columbus. That is when she adopted the name AC Hair Co., a combination of her and her husband's astrological signs, Aries and Cancer.

"My husband's a huge supporter of me doing this," Lillich said. "And he was in the industry in a way for a few years. He managed a beauty distributor in Missouri. So he doesn't glaze over when I talk about hair anymore. He understands that a lot more now. So again, it was a big part for both of us."

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The AC Hair Co. building, formerly Sheldon Masonry, opened April 1, 2023, at a prime location on the corner of Third Street and Barclay Avenue in Pine River.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

After a while, Lillich and her husband started wanting the life they would briefly have whenever they visited her parents.

"Every time we'd come back to visit, we'd just be like, 'Oh, we have to leave to go home, and they get to do all these fun things together,'" Lillich said. "Also, my grandma's not getting any younger; she's not getting any healthier."

The couple wanted to move back to Minnesota five years ago, but many factors got in the way, delaying them until this past year. While settling back in Pine River, Lillich found a supportive place to rent a chair while she got back up to speed.


"I was renting a chair from Janel at Shear Grace," Lillich said. "In the meantime, kind of building clientele, so I'm super thankful to her for letting me be able to work there, because that's pretty unheard of in the industry for somebody to be comfortable enough with having somebody knowing that they're going to be, quote unquote, competition."

Lillich believes her business will compliment Shear Grace by offering different things. Not only does Lillich offer a different line of hair care products, she also has manicures, pedicures and certification in a special form of air curling hair.

As a result, the two businesses might serve different needs in the community in a way that isn't traditionally competitive.

With the long-awaited development of the former Tom Thumb property on the corner of Highway 371 and Barclay Avenue in Pine River looming, Spike's Barbershop and owner Wallace Walter Wales (Spike) will be moving just south of town.

Lillich was able to move from Shear Grace into her new space, the former Artisan Corner, Sheldon Masonry and Oakheart Therapy building on the corner of Third Street and Barclay Avenue. They started leasing the space in February, and the doors opened April 1.

Lilich said the building was a prime location on Barclay Avenue with all of the improvements at the dam and the construction of a new restaurant. In addition, the building served as a showroom for fireplaces for Sheldon Masonry and as a result has a very cozy feel with waiting areas and stations set up strategically near stone fireplaces.

"I didn't want to have some sterile looking salon," Lillich said. "I want something that's going to be inviting"

Lillich's location is a one-stop shop for vivid colors, curling, manicures, pedicures and makeup.

"Brazilian blowouts, men's cutting, women's cutting, kids cutting, perms, pretty much the whole gamut," Lillich said. "The only thing that I really don't do is relaxers."


One of her favorite things to do is transformation, basically introducing people to something new, including new colors and appointments that require lots of time and work.

Growth is a goal for Lillich. Her space has a room in the back that could be rented in the future, either by a second chair or a massage therapist. If she buys the property some time down the line, there is room to add onto the building and grow even more if needed.

For now the salon will just be her, but eventually she might like at least someone part time to answer the phone, as she absolutely does not answer it while she is with a client.

Janel Andrus is not a new face to Pine River, but she is new as a local business owner. Customers might recognize Andrus as a stylist at one of the chairs of the former Leigh's Hair Affair, now Shear Grace under Andrus's ownership. Others would r...

Overall, Lillich is simply excited to be back home and very proud of continuing family tradition.

"I think it's cool to have three generations of us currently in town," she said.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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