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Love Is In The Skyline: Three Romantic 'How We Met' Stories For Valentine's Day


It is a love affair that sprawled across 10 Metro Atlanta counties. At least in icing. When Denise and Michael Starling decided to tie the knot, their friends designed a cake in the shape of a map of the state's 10 central counties to commemorate their meeting when both were employed at the Atlanta Regional Commission.


Denise — who now heads up Livable Buckhead — recounted the first time she spotted Michael, who now heads economic development for Dunwoody. She'd visit her friends a floor up at the ARC offices, milling about near the hallway when Michael strolled by to get coffee. And that was her pattern for some time.

“[My friends' office] just happened to be on the way to the coffee machine," Denise said. Every time I'd be up there, Michael would walk by and happen to get coffee. So I'd be at the doorway to check him out as he walked by.”

When asked, Michael conceded it wasn't just for the coffee.

“I do have a pretty large coffee habit," he said, "but there was an extra large group of ladies, so that was a bonus.”

Office romances are not a new thing, certainly. More than 55% of respondents to a recent survey at Vault said they have had one. And while the horror stories of office romances gone sour are numerous, Vault found that 10% of respondents ended up marrying the person with whom they engaged in cubicle flirtations.

Jessica Doyle with her husband, Ryan Doyle, and their three children

Atlanta's commercial real estate scene is no different, as Jessica and Ryan Doyle found out many moons ago, when they both worked at the local brokerage firm Ackerman & Co. Even before the two became an item, Jessica said she knew Ryan would be different.

She would pass his desk at Ackerman during the lunch hour and see him eating a frozen meal. “And I got this strangest feeling that I was going to marry him,” she said.  

Each coming off a recent breakup meant they were dateless for the office holiday party one year. They decided to attend together as friends.

“Everybody was bringing a date, and we didn't want to bring a date, so we ended up going together,” she quipped. "So, here we are, 10 years later with three kids."


For Transcend Commercial Real Estate co-founder Patrick Braswell, he didn't meet his wife, Leigh, at the office per se. He first met her when he took an office client to tour 730 Midtown in 2005. Leigh, who at the time was with Lincoln Property, was representing the landlord. Patrick — who was at Colliers International — was touring the property with his client.

“When she walked out," Patrick said, "I was definitely [thinking], 'Man, that girl is gorgeous.'”  

The two struck up a friendship, and Patrick even set her up on a date with a mutual friend. Needless to say, it was a decision he instantly regretted.

“I thought they were hitting it off, so I got insanely jealous,” he said. But luckily, when he asked her about it, Leigh told him she actually did not care for his friend. Then the two began dating and married in 2008. They now have three children.  

For Denise and Michael, the flirtations lasted long enough before someone finally pushed the two in 1996 to finally go out on a date: Cumberland CID's Malaika Rivers. She made Denise ask him out. Their first date was to see the Jim Carrey comedy "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls."

“I think it was the only decent movie playing back then. But, yeah, that was a bad call,” Michael said. Luckily, the first date survived the movie, and ended with another date. And another. And then in 2001, the duo married, and now have an 11-year-old son, Will.  

As for the bridal shower cake, it commemorated their workplace romance at the ARC.

“It read," Denise said. "10 counties. One true love."