The smell of flowers filled the air of a bustling Seal Beach hair and nail salon Tuesday. Nearly every chair was filled, and it was hard for most patrons to remember that only last October it was the scene of one of the area’s worst mass killings.
Salon Meritage in Seal Beach opened its doors and started serving its first customers Tuesday with a new owner, Irma Acosta. Only a year ago, members of the community laid candles and flowers outside Salon Meritage to mourn the deaths of eight individuals, including co-owner Randy Fannin, who were killed when alleged gunman Scott Dekraai, opened fired in the salon.
The salon was full of flowers again yesterday afternoon with some counters too crowded to hold anymore. This time, the cards read, “Congratulations.”
Sandi Fannin, the previous co-owner of the salon, has passed the reigns to Acosta. Fannin and many of the stylists at Salon Meritage have stuck together in the past year working at a salon only a few shops down.
Carla Benner, a stylist with the salon for 13 years, said she felt that stepping into Salon Meritage again made her feel like she was coming home.
“I feel like I’ve been on vacation and I’m unpacking,” Benner said. “No matter how good the vacation is, it’s good to be home.”
The reopening of the salon, Acosta said, was at the urge of the clients and allowed all the stylists to stay together.
“We knew it was what Randy [Fannin] would have wanted,” Acosta said.
The first day of operation was running smoothly, Acosta said, except for a few hiccups: a lack of hot water and a faulty toilet. Nevertheless, patrons were happy to be back, and the salon was filled with chatter and laughing.
Pat Tuchscher, who has been a client of Acosta’s for 15 years, said she was surprised by how much bigger the salon looked.
“It’s so different. It’s beautiful,” Tuchscher said.
The salon went through radical changes since its closing last year, according to Acosta, but with help of the community, she began to pick up the pieces.
“We literally built [the salon] from the ground up,” she said.
What were once piles of dirt now hold walls with hair sinks. The salon is also now decorated with its logo, “M” for Meritage.
Acosta said the opening of the salon was bittersweet, but with food in the fridge from loyal patrons, she is optimistic the salon will flourish.
“There are a lot of salons in Seal Beach particularly, but we felt it not only had to reopen, but it had to be Salon Meritage,” she said.