Breanna Woods was rarely absent from work.
So when customers began lining up outside Black Coffee on Thursday morning, owner Carl Northrop simply thought his most consistent employee just had a flat tire.
As he walked across the street from his home to the downtown Atlanta coffee shop, he pulled out his phone to check for any messages from Woods. He only came across one from her mother.
His heart immediately sank.
“She had sent me a message to let me know that she had passed,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution via phone Thursday.
Shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday, officers were called to the Twelve Centennial Park building at 400 West Peachtree Street. Police said Woods, 28, was found with multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. She was a resident of Twelve Centennial Park, a 39-story residential tower that overlooks Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard.
Douglas Hairston, 30, was detained near the incident location after the shooting and is facing charges of murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a knife during the commission of a felony, police said. Woods and Hairston had been dating for the past few months, according to Northrop.
Woods was a cheerful and calming woman to be around, Northrop said. That’s why he hired her a month after opening Black Coffee along Walker Street in December 2021.
He said she didn’t have any coffee experience, but her hospitality was impeccable. It didn’t take long for her to climb the ranks and become manager.
“She quickly became one of the most consistent people here. One of our best employees,” Northrop said.
Credit: Channel 2 Action News
Credit: Channel 2 Action News
Woods was an anchor at the business. She memorized the customers’ orders and always initiated conversation with those who visited. In many ways, she knew things about the shop that Northrop didn’t even know.
Filling her vacancy will be a hard task, he said, especially since Woods put so much of her heart and energy into the job. Most of the art on the walls was sourced by her. Northrop said she reached out to local artists to promote their artwork and create a serene atmosphere for customers.
Though Northrop is still processing Woods’ death, the arrest also struck him.
He said Hairston would often bring his laptop into the shop, enjoy some coffee and work on his business. At some point, he and Woods started talking and eventually began to date, according to Northrop.
“He was here every single day, which is even more jarring because I had gotten to know him as well, because he was her partner and he’s creative,” he said.
Many of Woods’ other aspirations were just starting to take off. Northrop said she was teaching yoga at various schools and was planning to open her own juicing business, which would have become available at the new Black Coffee shop opening on the Westside of Atlanta.
Northrop said he hopes to honor Woods’ legacy at the shop. But even with a memorial, things will never be the same.
“She was just such a calming presence and such a beautiful spirit,” he remarked.