Tim Harris was 13 years old when he told people his dream of owning his own restaurant. He is now 27 and the proud operator of Tim's Place in Albuquerque, N.M. Sure, lots of people follow their dreams, but Tim's story is different, Tim has Down Syndrome.
No one expected Tim's idea to become a reality, but with the support of his parents Keith and Jeannie Harris, Tim's Place has been up and operating for three years.
The restaurant is technically owned by Tim's parents, but it will be transferred to a trust in his name.
"When you have a kid with substantial disabilities you have to think a lot about their future," Keith Harris said in an interview with ABC News. "We were very motivated for Tim to have as normal a life as possible."
Tim's Place serves American and Mexican breakfasts and lunches, but there is one special thing that Harris serves to his customers, hugs. He loves to give out lots of hugs and according to the hug counter on the restaurant's website he has given close to 35,000 so far.
Tim is at the restaurant everyday except Tuesday, from around 7 am until 2 pm.
"I come to work and have my shirt untucked. I get my breakfast and when I am done, I'll tuck in my shirt and get into work mode," said Tim. He also says that "giving hugs is his favorite part of the day."
Tim's parents never treated him differently than his three brothers. During his high school years he worked as a restaurant host at Applebees and Red Robin. His father said people liked coming in to see Tim at work. That is when he and his wife had a "little light bulb moment," and started thinking, "why can't we harness that effect to Tim's benefit economically?"
Tim attended Eastern New Mexico University earning certificates in Food Service and Office Skills.He live in a college dorm and graduated in the summer of 2008.
In May of 2010, Tim's parents signed a lease for a restaurant and opened the doors to Tim's Place that October. Tim's lives by himself in an apartment next to the restaurant and works with a chef and a manager.
Tim is also a motivational speaker and has won several gold medals in the Special Olympics.
"I tell people with disabilities to stay in school so they can follow their dreams," said Tim.
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