Your Story: Tim Harris – The Hugging Machine

One lazy afternoon, we were trolling on our Twitter handle and we bumped into this video and buoooooy, we are awestruck and how!

We highly recommend that you see this video before you read further.

This video not only made us an immediate fan of this prodigy but also made us write to THE ‘Tim Harris’, to get to know more about him.

Tim Harris, owner of Tim’s Place, is New Mexico’s only restaurant owner with Down’s syndrome, and the joy he gets from serving people good food carries over into his diner’s most famous export: hugs! Tim’s restaurant is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and is open 7 days a week. Read more about Tim & his restaurant here: Tim’s Place

Tim

Below are the excerpts from the interaction we had with Tim.

1. Could you tell us more about THE ‘Tim Harris’?

I was born in January of 1986. I am 27 years old, I have Down syndrome, I own my own business, I live on my own and I LOVE MY LIFE!

2. How was it for your family to get to know that you had Down Syndrome, could you share the experience of your family bringing you up?

Tim Harris

Tim Harris

My Mom and Dad told me they were very scared when they learnt about my disability. The doctors told them they were very sorry. I guess they didn’t know then how TOTALLY AWESOME I would turn out to be!

I have three brothers – one older brother named Dan and two younger brothers named Tom and John. Growing up with three brothers was a lot of fun! They never treated me like I was different or special. I love my brothers every day.

3. Tell us about your school life? How was it?

I really loved school! I really loved going to school because I got to meet all kinds of friends. Of course I learnt how to read books and do math too. I also learnt how to pay attention and be on time. Sometimes school was hard because I didn’t always want to do the work!

I just loved going to school and made friends that helped me play guitar too.  I guess they loved me back because they made me Homecoming King in my senior year!

The Homecoming King - 2003

The Homecoming King – 2003

4. In your school, you were the Student of the Year, which obviously means that you were a bright student. Having said that, what inspired you to dream of owning a restaurant?

My Mom tells me that the Student of the Year award was given to students who had the highest influence on the students and staff each year. When they announced that I was the Male Student of the Year for the class of 2004 I was very happy and excited and got to be in the spotlight. Everybody just melted then they came to their feet in a huge standing ovation! They made me feel very special.

I loved being with everyone at my school! I really liked to hang out in the courtyard where lots of students went to eat lunch so maybe making friends during lunch gave me the idea to open a restaurant!

5. We read that you have been a Special Olympics athlete. Tell us about how did you become an athlete and share something about your achievements?

Tim Harris- A Special Olympics Athlete & Global Messenger

Tim Harris- A Special Olympics Athlete & Global Messenger

I started competing in the Special Olympics when I was 13. My Dad and I joined a golf competition. In Special Olympics, it (golf) is a unified sport which means that a player competes along with a partner without disabilities. My Dad and I bonded and won a gold.  This was just the beginning!

I have been competing in all kinds of sports including Basketball, Track and Field (I like the Pentathlon the best), Poly Hockey and Bowling. Someday I want to compete in the International Special Olympics. I am trained to be a Global Messenger for Special Olympics and love to talk to others about how much I love Special Olympics! Oh Yeah!

I have won dozens of medals!  I just started training for the next Basketball competitions.

6. You are the only one with Down Syndrome in the entire country to own a restaurant, how did it all start?

I don’t know – My dad and I started talking about me owning a business when I was a teenager. I dreamt of owning my own restaurant and giving out hugs. I got my first job in a restaurant when I was in high school. I LOVED IT! That’s when I really knew that’s what I wanted to do – I loved greeting the customers, visiting them and working with awesome people!

After high school I went to a small college in Roswell, New Mexico where I studied Food Service.  As part of which, I worked with a restaurant owner and learnt about hosting.

In 2010, my parents loaned funds for the restaurant and found a manager to help me with everything. The manager helped me, from the building design and decor, to the menu and managing of the business part of the restaurant.

In October 2010, when the doors opened for the first time, I felt so happy and excited that people would finally be able to come in and enjoy the food and my hugs!

Next month is our 3rd anniversary and I am very excited about it and want to have a BIG celebration.

7. Who is the inspiration behind Tim’s Place?

Family & Friends

My inspiration is my family and friends. They opined that I could do it. My parents started their own business and wanted to help me own mine.

I wanted to have my restaurant so all my friends could come and we would be connected again!

Tim with Mom Jeannie Harris

Tim with Mom Jeannie Harris and his brother’s

8. We read in a news report, that you feel a hug is more important than food? Why do you believe so?

People can get food anywhere. My hugs are special and they bring a lot more love because I am a soft teddy bear when it comes to hugs – I am a hugging machine!

Tim's infamous hug

Tim’s infamous hug

9. Could you share a story with us where ‘Tim’s hug’ changed a guest’s mood? Or it helped them in some way?

One day a man came in, to look at the menu. I met him and shook his hand. He looked a little upset. He told me his wife was pregnant with their 2nd baby and they just found out it will be born with Down Syndrome. He was very scared! I gave him a hug and then he took me out to his car to meet his wife and daughter. She was crying so hard she couldn’t even come in to my restaurant. When she saw me she opened her door and I gave her and her daughter a hug. I told her that everything will be okay and that when they come back to Tim’s Place we can sit and talk more about my disability. I have been praying for them. I’m pretty sure they will come back.

Hugs can change one's

Hugs can change one’s life

10. Which part of your job do you love the most? Why?

I am the owner and it is my job to make sure that the people feel welcomed and entertained when they stop by.  I try to greet everyone at the door or at their table.  I also like to make sure my employees are happy and have everything they need.

Favorite part of my job is the hugs!

Team Tim's Place

Team Tim’s Place

11. We’ve been reading about you on so many portals. How does it feel to be loved back?

It makes me feel happy and a little emotional because it means that people love me just the way I am.

When people love me back it makes me great because all that love is spreading all over the world!

12. What is the one message you would like to give out to the world?

That’s kind of easy right there.  I want to tell everyone we are a gift and we are awesome!  We are more alike than different and we love everybody.  We are special gifts because we bring love, joy and comfort to the world.

13. Lastly, what’s the current hugs count? ;).

42,730 and counting 🙂

Hug Counter at Tim's Place

Hug Counter at Tim’s Place

The world’s friendliest restaurant is now open for breakfast, lunch and hugs!

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6 thoughts on “Your Story: Tim Harris – The Hugging Machine

  1. eXcellent job, guys! I’ve heard Tim’s story and am amaZed at how he lives out the love of God in his life and reaches out to others. You presented this very well. Thanks! God bless you.

  2. I will never grow tired of Tim’s story. I have a 2 year old with DS, and I will never ever let that get in the way of helping succeed. Tim inspires me as a parent on so many levels. Tim doesn’t appear to have a disability to me. If anything is an overachiever in a big way. I love watching your hug meter go up up up and away!! I love Tim with all of my heart, and I will continue to be his biggest fan!!!

  3. Pingback: Tête-a-Tête with Chef Shohei Nakajima: Would you like some Butter Chicken with Wasabi?  | Story Soviets

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