ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Running a restaurant isn't easy, but Tim Harris has made it work.
Along the way he became perhaps the only person with Down syndrome in the U.S. who owns and operates his own place.
"This trophy right here, I got student of the year," Harris, 25, said as he gave KRQE News 13 a tour of Tim's Place.
Harris has accomplished a lot.
"I won homecoming king from the highest margin of votes in school history," said Harris, a 2004 graduate of Eldorado High School. He went on to get a degree from Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.
He then followed through on what he's always wanted since he was a kid. With the help of his family, he opened Tim's Place in 2010 near Academy and Wyoming in northeast Albuquerque.
"This restaurant has been about 10 years in the making, kind of a plan within our family," said Keith Harris, Tim's father. "A novel idea to help our son Tim, who has Down syndrome, create an independent life for himself just like his brothers."
"My business is all about people coming through that door," Tim said.
He has a unique way of winning over customers. He offers something on the menu you can only order here, a "Tim hug."
"I love giving all the customers a hug because I want them to feel comfortable and connected and being around friends," said Harris.
Tim gives out hundreds of hugs each week. He even keeps count and is closing in on 15,000 hugs since he opened last year.
Tim says it's a job he loves. What's the hardest part about his job? Tim smiles as he says nothing.
"He has this unique quality where he is happy literally every day," said Jeannie Harris, Tim's mother.
You can follow his life on the walls of his restaurant.
"That picture of me and my dad, that's my favorite picture because I love my dad," he said. "He's my inspiration and my hero, too. My other hero is my mom."
His story is an inspiration to many.
"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," Jeanne Harris said. "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," said Tim.
Tim's family has done a lot of research online and as far as they know Tim is the only person with Down syndrome who owns and operates a restaurant. Tim's Place is open for breakfast and lunch.
If you have a success story for the KRQE News 13 New Mexico Works segment. e-mail reporter Jessica Garate at email@example.com .
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