A beauty salon in Seal Beach reopens Tuesday, more than one year after the worst mass murder in Orange County history.
For the people who survived the attack that killed eight people that day, it is now a story of healing and rebirth as Salon Meritage has been transformed.
“What we wanted to show was the fierceness of these ladies, that they would not be deterred from coming back to the community and doing what they love to do, which is make people beautiful,” said Long Beach designer Cynthia Pastor.
The 'ladies' Pastor is referring to are Sandi Fannin, the former owner of Salon Meritage, and new owner, longtime employee, Irma Acosta.
Pastor worked with Acosta and Fannin, and donated a lot of her time and energy, to not just renovate, but transform the salon. And, it’s a dramatic transformation: Doors were moved, the location of the sinks and bathroom has changed and the interior is much brighter now with more natural light.
“We tried to keep it a really open plan because we wanted people again to feel that warmth that they want to connect with one another,” said Pastor.
Irma Acosta said the changes are beyond her expectations.
"It’s absolutely beautiful," Acosta beamed, while looking around inside the renovated space. "We just wanted to reopen but never in our minds could we have imagined that, that we would end up with this beautiful salon.”
Fannin, who lost her husband Randy in the shooting, said the new look works.
“It’s soft, peaceful and I think it feels good," she said. "It’s real tranquil.”
Fannin, along with her daughter and step granddaughter, will be working in the salon with several new employees.
New owner Acosta said she is looking forward to continuing the family feeling in the new space.
“It’s been a process of praying and working through and just knowing the direction we were going in, which was forward,” Acosta said.
Both Acosta and Fannin said the reopening would not have been possible without designer Cynthia Pastor and many other people who donated time and materials.
"Sandi (Fannin) and I came to her back in March," recalled Acosta. “We were pretty broken and she ( Pastor) asked us what we wanted for the salon, what we envisioned. And all we could tell her was that we wanted a safe place. And from there she produced this and everybody that comes in says the same thing, it feels so calm, so safe.”
The pain and hurt of that day last year – the loss of not just coworkers, but family and friends – is not far from the hearts and thoughts of Fannin and Acosta.
But going back to work in the renovated Salon Meritage, moving forward, is a big step in the healing process while also honoring the memories of loved ones lost.
"It’s very apropos that we’re moving here the week of Thanksgiving," said Acosta. "We have a lot to be thankful for.”