ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Despite only being 27 years old, Tim Harris already has a lengthy résumé.
The New Mexico native has won more medals than swimmer Michael Phelps, was voted Homecoming king by the largest margin of votes in his high school’s history, is a college graduate and owns the “world’s friendliest restaurant,” Tim’s Place, in Albuquerque.
Although Harris was born with Down syndrome, his life has been defined by his dreams, not his disability.
“My inspiration,” Harris told Catholic News Agency March 21, “is that I have wanted to open a restaurant since I was a kid.”
With the help of his family, Harris was able to realize that goal in 2010, when he opened Tim’s Place, a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and hugs.
“The best part is the hugs and all the love that comes with those hugs,” Harris said.
According to his digital hug counter that hangs on the wall, Harris has given away more than 33,000 of them so far.
“I want people to feel comfortable and [give them] something awesome to have when they go home,” Harris explained. “They’ll give a hug to their people in their hometown. … Then they can send a hug around the state.”
Harris’ older brother, Dan, works as the operations manager, while his father, Keith, helps with the “business side” of the restaurant. His mother, Jeannie, helped put up the pictures from Harris’ life that adorn a wall under the words, “I’m more like you than different.” Harris has three brothers, each of whom is a “superhero,” according to him.
In the more than two years that Tim’s Place has been in business, Harris has been featured on local news channels, NPR and NBC’s Today Show, as well as in People magazine, to name a few. The media attention has brought in even more loyal patrons.
Harris’ restaurant also helps support Special Olympics of New Mexico and the National Down Syndrome Congress.
“We support the Special Olympics because they do a lot for us,” he said.
While some of his favorite events are basketball, hockey, track and field and golf, Harris — a Special Olympics athlete and medal winner — has already begun training for volleyball.
Said Harris of his work: “I feel really happy when I’m with my customers, and they’re just so happy for me.”