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Azana Salon's interior changes pay tribute to fallen employees

New design has security features to protect employees and clients

Viki Murray, an interior designer and sister of the Azana Salon and Spa owner, takes the Milwaukee media on a tour of the facility to describe the remodeling completed in less than 60 days for the facility's Dec. 1 reopening.

Viki Murray, an interior designer and sister of the Azana Salon and Spa owner, takes the Milwaukee media on a tour of the facility to describe the remodeling completed in less than 60 days for the facility's Dec. 1 reopening. Photo By C.T. Kruger

Dec. 2, 2012

Brookfield - Azana Salon and Spa clients entered a new normal when the salon reopened Saturday at 8 a.m.

The salon held a media walkthrough Friday to preview the new changes to the interior, which was completely destroyed when Radcliffe Haughton shot seven people and then set fire to the building on October 21.

Tami Gemmell, Azana's owner, said she and her employees are excited about the changes and are ready to start fresh.

"We have all been committed to the healing process," Gemmell said. "This is our home away from home."

The new interior was designed by Gemmell's sister, Viki Murray. Murray designed the salon when it first opened 13 years ago and said she felt she was the only one who could handle the job of redesigning her sister's salon after the tragedy.

"It was almost a calling," she said. "I can't imagine someone else doing it. It would have felt weird for me not to do it."

Murray led the tour and described all of the changes to the salon. The entire two-story interior needed remodeling because of water damage to the building. Murray said damage was extensive because the sprinkler system ran for 24 hours after the fire.

"There was probably six inches of standing water in here," she said.

A granite plaque was placed outside of the main entrance to honor the victims: Zina Daniel, Cary Robuck and Maelyn Lind. The plaque is engraved with their names, the date of the tragedy and the words "we miss you."

The foyer was renovated with bright colors as well as a new ceiling, light sconces, tiling and furniture. Murray says employees voted and chose the vibrant blue and brown color combination to create a more relaxed atmosphere.

"I made up color boards for the staff and told them what the colors symbolized," she said. "It literally took them five seconds to choose the blue."

Stylist stations were refaced with large mirrors and the pedicure area on the first floor has a large mirrored wall, a security feature that will allow employees to see the front entrance while working on clients.

Zina's station (at right) is now a waiting area and permanent memorial to the three victims.

"Her station didn't seem right being empty," Gemmell said. "We filled it with three yellow roses that will be there always and a candle that will remain lit when we are around."

Murray said yellow is a symbol of friendship and the promise of a new beginning.

"For us to see someone else in this spot would have been hard," she said.

Murray felt some pressure to create a new environment for the salon after the tragedy.

"We knew it had to look so different," she said. "It's not the same place. Three of the employees are gone. For the employees to feel like this was a different place, it had to be different inside."

Employees have embraced the new atmosphere, Murray said.

"They loved it," she said. "I get text messages saying that all the time. It's a new beginning; it's fresh and vibrant compared to what it was before."

Beauty in ashes

Gemmell said she doesn't feel it's too soon to reopen the salon.

"Every single day since this has happened, I've had at least one or two employees Facebook me and say, 'I can't wait to get back to work,' and part of the healing process is getting back into your normal routine," Gemmell said. "Our employees weren't able to do that because we were closed. Now is the time to finish the healing process."

Customers both new and old were anxious for Saturday's opening, Gemmell said.

"We are very busy," she said. "Our clients are very excited and supportive."

The new interior is one step of many for the Azana family in adjusting to the changes that have occurred during the past six weeks.

"We are definitely going to find beauty in these ashes because that is what we do," she said. "There is a sense of loss, but there is also a sense of new beginnings. Our hearts are still beating, and beating for our three angels, and I think they would be very proud of us today."

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