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Avondale salon, once the scene of a double shooting, reopened honoring owner’s legacy

Ema Maldonado was killed on Sept. 11 by who police say was her husband at the business they co-owned.

AVONDALE, Ariz. — A ribbon cutting marked a new beginning at Ema’s Family Barbershop on Friday.

In September, the Avondale hair salon and barbershop located near Central and Western avenues was the scene of a double murder where owner Ema Maldonado was killed.

Six months later, it will be a place to carry on her legacy.

“I feel that it would be a dishonor to her if we didn’t keep what she built going,” said Jonathan Herrera, one of Ema’s sons. “From here on, just keep moving forward.”

RELATED: Family of Avondale salon owner killed by husband to reopen business

For nearly 10 years, Ema’s salon was the community's staple for all your hair needs.

Loyal customers and long-time employees helped Herrera reopen the business.

“Feels great to be back home,” Herrera said referring to the business. “We hope to keep helping people just like she did.”

Credit: 12News

Giving the scene of a crime a new life

On Sept. 11, police say Maldonado’s husband, Jose Jesus Rodriguez, killed her and another man that Rodriguez believed she was having an affair with. 

Eight days later, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said Rodriguez was found unresponsive in his cell at Fourth Avenue jail.

“She was my boss, but at the same time, she was like my mother,” Lorena Rodriguez said. “All of this, we are doing it from the bottom of our hearts to her.”

Lorena Rodriguez had been working at the salon for less than a year when she witnessed the shooting that happened at the business.

To look back on that day is painful for her.

While she admits she often rethinks what she could have done to change the outcome, she’s now focused on honoring the woman that gave her a chance when no one else would.

“[Ema] deeply cared for others and provided great customer service, so that’s what we are all here going to do,” Lorena Rodriguez said.

For Jennyfer Lagunas, Ema was like family.

She met Ema at a young age while her mother worked at the salon. Now, she’s part of the team but feels sad the woman she admired is no longer there.

“She was one of the best people I could have ever met and I’m very glad that I was able to meet her,” Lagunas said. “She would be super happy that they’re continuing to grow the place.”

Fresh cuts and hellos

The salon stayed busy Friday. While some customers arrived to get their fresh haircuts for the weekend, others simply stopped by to say hello, happy to have them back.

“For many years we came here, and [Ema] would always greet us, always with a smile,” customer Maria Navarro said. “A wonderful person. It’s nice to see that they’re carrying on her legacy.”

For Jonathan Herrera, the salon was a place where he not only bonded with his mother but a place that she made feel like a home. A place where customers and employees he said, was family.

“I’m not going to lie; the bar is set way up high and I’m going to do my best to reach it,” Herrera said. “She went out of her way to help people and make it look great and now, we have to hold the same standard. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to do our best to keep it going just the way she did.”

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