Tim's Place, Run By 27-Year-Old With Down Syndrome, Serves Hugs With Lunch

September 27, 2013

This is the inspiring story of Tim Harris, a man who has down syndrome and owns the "worlds friendliest restaurant". Tim opens up about battling bullies and the importance of hugging. Customers get free hugs, and every morning Tim Harris, 27, does a magical dance when he goes to work. Despite his condition, Tim proves to be the kind of loving person everyone should strive to be.

Tim opened up his own restaurant, Tim's Place, in Albuquerque, USA, in 2010. It serves Mexican food, breakfast specialties and Belgian waffles, among a lot of other delicious items on the menu. But though it may taste great, it's not the food that attracts the most customers. Tim himself is famous for giving out hugs to his patrons.

"I have a special tender hug for people that are sad," he says.

Interviews That Matter: You call your restaurant "the world's friendliest restaurant". Does the world need more friendly restaurants like your own?

Tim Harris: Yes, because my customers love that I give hugs that touch their hearts.

ITM: How many hugs have you given out? Is there any hug in particular that you remember?

TH: I have given out almost 42,000 hugs! I've given so many I don't remember any one in particular. There are all kinds of hugs like first time customer hugs, side hugs, little around the world virtual hugs, little kids hugs, and I have a special tender hug for people that are sad. Sometimes I cry with them.

tim's place

ITM: That's a lot of hugs! Why are they sad?

TH: One time a customer came in and said his wife was having a very bad day.  She lost her job.  Her husband asked me to come over and help her feel better with a hug. She was crying and and I cried too because I could feel it through her heart.

ITM: How are first time customer hugs different from other hugs?

TH: Those are special because new customers don't know about the power of a Tim Hug! Some customers don't want a hug though and that's okay.

ITM: Which kind of all the types of hugs is your favorite?

TH: I love the soft, teddy bear kind of hug.  The tender hugs are my specialty.

ITM: You started your restaurant in 2010. What were your expectations?

TH: I thought my restaurant would be very popular and that lots of people would come to see me. I was so excited when it came together. I got to watch the place unfold into my dream.

ITM: You sound very confident. Is that important when you run your own business?

TH: It's important to believe in yourself and in your dreams. When I believe I have the friendliest restaurant in the world, other people believe it too.

ITM: Have you met the expectations? What are your future plans for the restaurant?

TH: The restaurant has become popular and people are coming from all over the world to see me, but at first they didn't know that Tim's Place was "right here" and didn't know that I was the owner. My future dreams for Tim's Place are to open more restaurants and to give out a BILLION hugs!

ITM: One billion? That's a huge goal! Would you give them all in person?

TH: I want to give out all the hugs myself. I never get tired of giving hugs – I recharge my hugging machine every night!

ITM: What support have you received from your family?

TH: My mom and dad loaned me the money to open the doors. My dad helped get the word out throughout Albuquerque and the world. My brothers have all worked at my place and they supported me by bringing their friends to the restaurant and giving me business.

ITM: Do people come for the hugs or the food?

TH: Both! But sometimes people have come in just for the hugs. A group of travelers from Oklahoma called and placed an order for 47 hugs at 6:45 in the morning! They did get some cookies to go, though.

ITM: Going back in time, growing up with down syndrome must have been a real challenge. Yet you were elected homecoming king and seem to have led a very happy life with a lot of friends. In what ways, if any, have you had to struggle more than other people while growing up?

TH: When I was growing up I was struggling with bullies and my brothers helped me practice to stand up to them. I pushed my brother John really hard against the wall and hurt him. I felt really bad but my brother told me that's what I needed to do to the bullies.

One year on Halloween we were trick or treating in my neighborhood and I got away from our group. Some kids pulled up in a truck and they pushed me down and stole my pillowcase full of candy and my Halloween mask. I was so angry that I cried. My brothers told all their friends in the neighborhood and some went looking for the guys. Then I got a really big surprise. The kids from our neighborhood came to our house with a huge pillowcase filled with their candy and gave it to me. That made me feel happy. I always had people right there for me.

ITM: What would you say to others with down syndrome who might be having problems with bullies right now?

TH: If you're having a problem with a bully you should tell them to stop bothering you and then ignore them. Don't be afraid to get help.

ITM: Do you believe that your condition has made you a more positive person?

TH: I don't really think of it as a condition. I call it born to be awesome!

ITM: Is it affecting your everyday life?

TH: I'm more like others than different. I do have struggles like everyone else but they are learning experiences.

ITM: Thinking forward, what are your dreams for the future?

TH: I dream of getting married and having my own family. My family and friends believe in my dreams. They know I can do it! It's kind of like a fairy tale.

ITM: Anyone special in your life already?

TH: I do have someone special in my life. Her name is Whitney and we've been friends since elementary school. She's really cute! I don't drive, but she does – BONUS!

ITM: So you're boyfriend and girlfriend?

TH: Whitney is my girlfriend, yes.  We've been dating for over a year and I think she's the one! I love her every day.

ITM: Can you tell me about the dance you do when going to work?

TH: Well, it's a dance of magic because people see me dancing to the restaurant and they know I love my life.

ITM: What can people do, other than visiting your restaurant of course, to get more magic into their lives?

TH: It feels awesome to dance and get silly. It makes you feel happy and people will feel the magic by doing that. I think you can have magic when you give hugs, too!

Source: Interviews That Matter | Photo: Tim's Place

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