Tim Harris is a 26-year-old restaurant owner in Albuquerque. He was also born with Down Syndrome. His successful restaurant, Tim’s Place, serves traditional New Mexican fare, but also offers up a special, no-calorie, guilt-free treat: hugs with lunch. Many people call Tim’s Place the friendliest restaurant in the world and come back every week for both the food and the hugs.
According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, Tim’s Place regular, Michelle Garth-Jones is just one such person who makes a special point to come back often for the hugs. She says, “Ever since I stopped in after reading the ‘Now Open’ sign, I’ve been coming here once a week. I love local restaurants, and this particular one has a story that stays with you.”
Tim’s family has been amazingly supportive of his endeavor into the restaurant business. In fact, they learned that Tim had a knack for greeting people and making them feel welcome when he worked at a Red Robin in Albuquerque when he was in high school. After seeing the happiness he shared with customers, his family had the idea to help Tim open his own restaurant.
Along with being a successful restauranteur, Tim is also a gifted athlete and college graduate. According to his website:
In the fall of 2004, Tim moved to Roswell, New Mexico to attend Eastern New Mexico University. Tim earned certificates in Food Service and in Office Skills and worked at a variety of local restaurants including CiCi’s Pizza, Golden Corral, IHOP, and Peppers Bar and Grill. Tim lived in a college dorm and graduated in the summer of 2008.
After college, Tim has worked as a host at Applebee’s restaurant in Albuquerque and has participated in Special Olympics competitions throughout New Mexico. Tim enjoys basketball, volleyball, poly hockey, track and field, and golf. He has won dozens of gold medals as a Special Olympian.
Tim spent much of 2009 and 2010 living aboard a sailboat with his parents and traveling throughout the Bahamas. Tim is now widely known throughout the Bahamas and is an excellent sailor and offshore fisherman.
His experiences with his travels, the Special Olympics, his college degree, and his work at various restaurants have made him the successful young man he is today, but he does have one more quality that sets him apart from the rest. According to his mother, Jeanne, “[Tim] has this unique quality where he is happy literally every day,” and it’s true. His regular customers and first-time visitors alike will tell you that his hugs are guaranteed to “improve your lease on life.”
It wasn’t always an easy road for the Harris family to get where they are now. According to Tim’s father, Keith, ”Tim is the second of four boys, and when he was growing up, we saw the challenges that his disability presented socially. We started to ponder when he was young about his future and made the choice that we wanted to create a life for him that was as close to typical as possible.” That decision, along with the undying support of his family and Tim’s remarkable drive have not only brought Tim to own a popular restaurant, but have inspired him to make the world a better place, one meal and one hug at a time.
Do you live in the Albuquerque area? If you’ve been to Tim’s Place, please share a story about your experience in the comments.
Photo Credit: Tim's Place