Tim's Place, Restaurant Run By 26-Year-Old With Down Syndrome, Serves Hugs With Lunch

Breakfast, Lunch And Hugs: America's Only Restaurant Owned By A Man With Down Syndrome

Tim Harris was born with Down syndrome and his father, Keith, admits that acceptance didn't come easily at first.

"Our pediatrician asked me if I knew what Down syndrome was, and the world turned black at that moment," he told CBS News.

But over the years, Keith's attitude shifted.

"Tim is the second of four boys, and when he was growing up, we saw the challenges that his disability presented socially,” Keith told Albuquerque The Magazine in February. “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.”

Thanks to his parents' faith and support, Harris has not only accomplished the typical, but he's also made the world a little bit more extraordinary.

Today, Harris is the proud owner of Tim's Place, a successful -- and unique -- restaurant in Albuquerque, N.M.

Other than selling regular New Mexican fare, Tim's Place has a trademark special. It's called the Tim Hug -— a "calorie-free" and "guilt-free" treat that, according to the menu description, guarantees to "improve your lease on life."

"I love giving all the customers a hug because I want them to feel comfortable and connected and being around friends,” Harris told Albuquerque The Magazine.

Tim's Place, which calls itself the "world's friendliest restaurant" opened its doors in 2010 and since then, Tim has given out more than 19,000 hugs. He keeps track using a Hug Counter.

“[Tim] has this unique quality where he is happy literally every day,” Jeanne, Harris' mother, told KRQE News 13 earlier this year.

“Ever since I stopped in after reading the ‘Now Open’ sign, I’ve been coming here once a week,” said Michelle Garth-Jones, a Tim's Place regular. “I love local restaurants, and this particular one has a story that stays with you."

According to CBS News, Harris is probably the only restaurant owner with Down syndrome in the United States.

Only 26, Harris -- a college graduate -- is also an accomplished Special Olympian, an excellent sailor and an experienced offshore fisherman. In high school, Harris was also elected homecoming king and Student Of The Year.

Harris and his family said they hope his example will serve to inspire others.

“We've had several families with young children with disabilities who have come in or written and said, 'I never thought this would be possible for my son or daughter," Harris' mother told KRQE News 13. "It's changing the way they're thinking as they're raising their young children."

“I tell people with disabilities that they can follow their dreams,” Harris added.

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