Columbus barber hoping for another miracle to save his shops
The bullets ripped into his belly one after another, leaving Byron Woods in a puddle of blood while his children begged him not to die.
Doctors gave him two days to live. But after 30 days in a coma, 10 surgeries, seven months in a hospital, and almost a million dollars in medical costs, Woods survived the armed robbery.
Now, 15 years later, the Southeast Side barber is hoping God can spare one more miracle.
This time Woods, who has cut hair for three generations of families, is trying to save his livelihood from a pandemic. His three hair-cutting businesses were among thousands shut down by the state in March as the coronavirus spread throughout Ohio.
“God scraped me off the ground 15 years ago and I’ll be eternally grateful,” said Woods, 55, owner of Oohs and Ahs Hair Design, Oohs and Ahs Lab and Oohs and Ahs VIP, all in the Eastland Plaza. “But here I am again, just as scared as back then.”
Woods sat in the original barber chair that he started with in 1991 and explained his desperation.
He has lost at least $30,000 in revenue in about six weeks and thousands more in personal income. He has 27 hair designers working in his three salons who count on him to make a living. Some of them are convicted felons he met through his 20 years of prison ministry. He has helped many establish new lives by giving them jobs. He fears others won’t give them the same second chance if his businesses go under.
His rent totals $5,000 a month and Woods said his landlord isn’t being patient.
But for Woods and the thousands who have sat in his barber chairs over the years, this is about more than money.
Woods is considered family to many on the East and Southeast sides. Skin color, age and political views don’t matter. All are welcome and respected, and those who don’t agree can find another barber. Woods isn’t afraid to tell a teenager with baggy pants to pull them up. He has consoled those who have lost loved ones, gone through divorce or are just lonely.
And he loves a good debate, whether it’s Lebron versus Jordan or Beyonce versus Whitney.
His longtime clients say losing Woods would create a hole in their community that would be tough to fill.
Woods started cutting Isaac Perry’s hair when he was a teenager. Perry is now 46 and lives in Chicago, but he still returns to Woods’ chair when he visits family in Columbus. He also took his son to the barbershop when he was a boy so he could understand that visiting Woods’ shop was more than a haircut.
“Byron has one of the best spirits I’ve ever encountered,” Perry said. “I’ll never forget my dad calling to tell me Byron was shot and no one expected him to live. That’s when I realized how important he was to me.”
Woods is reminded daily of that shooting. One of the bullets remains inside his chest and he has partial paralysis in his right leg.
On the night of Dec. 30, 2005, Woods was lying on the couch in his apartment when a man burst through the door with a gun and demanded money. There was another man just outside and a third waiting in a car.
Woods’ three children and two other kids were inside the apartment. One of his sons froze and ignored the orders to get down on the floor. Fearing for his son’s life, Woods tackled the gunman. Woods managed to get him outside the apartment but while they were wrestling, the man grabbed the gun and shot Woods four times. Nobody was ever convicted in the robbery.
Woods, who had just moved his barbershop operation to his current location, was told he would not survive, let alone cut hair again.
“God gave me a miracle no doubt,” Woods said. “Now I’m hoping for another with the business.”
Woods is reminded there is hope when a man looks through the windows of the barbershop.
“Hey man are you open?” the man says rubbing the top of his head. “I need a haircut real bad.”
Woods chuckles and sighs at the same time and tells the man his shops are still shut down, but they are hoping the state will allow them to open soon.
U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Democrat whose congressional district covers much of Columbus, has been a patron at Woods’ salons for a about two years.
She said Woods is inspiration for her work in Washington, D.C.
“Part of my drive for going on the U.S. House floor and advocating for small businesses is because of people like Byron Woods,” said Beatty, who has her hair styled by Woods’ sister. “He runs his business like a fellowship or ministry. His story is one of giving back and now we need to give back to people like him.”
Before Woods locks up the shop, another man comes to the front door and asks for a haircut.
Woods looks upward and again says hope is winning against the depression of the past few weeks.
“When that door opens, I know people will coming running in,” Woods said. “They will just have to keep a little more space between each other than normal. And Lord knows we all need a haircut.”