Tim Harris is, by all accounts, an extraordinary man. A once-in-a-lifetime kind of man. He’s met various celebrities, been featured in People Magazine, and graduated from Eastern New Mexico University. He was elected homecoming king of his high school class “by the largest margin in school history” while earning “Student of the Year” honors and met President Barack Obama. He went on to become an entrepreneur and open a restaurant.
You could probably ascertain Tim’s passion by looking at his academic record from his university. He graduated with three certificates: Food Service, Office Skills, and Restaurant Hosting.
After college, Mr. Harris spent a couple of years working as a host at Applebee’s and traveling throughout the Bahamas. His real dream? To open his own restaurant.
Tim is a well-traveled man, well-educated, and beloved by just about everyone who’s ever met him.
Tim Harris also has Down syndrome. The condition is genetic, and it impacts learning ability, changes the course of normal development, and causes certain physical alterations.
Tim’s condition, remarkable ambition, and outstanding achievements may help explain his favorite quote, which is from no other than another entrepreneur–Walt Disney.
“If you can dream it, you can do it.” ~Walt Disney
In October of 2010, Tim’s Place opened its doors.
“My favorite of all is the people coming through the front door. My hugs are way more important than the food…The food is just food!”
Tim’s Place Claim: “America’s Friendliest Restaurant!”
Tim’s Place motto: “Breakfast. Lunch. Hugs.“ Yes, Tim Harris loves to hug. Per his restaurant’s website, Mr. Harris has hugged over 75,000 people from 38 countries.
With Tim’s unceasing optimism and relentless ambition, Tim’s Place became an extraordinary success. He ran his business while speaking at multiple venues across the U.S.
His message: “I am here to tell you that dreams come true.”
Tim’s incredible business success, loving heart, and myriads of fans led to plenty of publicity. He’s been in front of cameras at CBS Evening News, America Online, ABC News, NBC Today Show, NBC Nightly News, National Public Radio (NPR) and CNN News.
With A Heavy Heart Owner Closes Restaurant, Then Heartbroken Employees Discover Beautiful Truth
In early 2015, Tim walked into the doors of his restaurant with a knot in his stomach. He knew what he was about to do would break his heart. And it would hurt the hearts of the people who worked for and loved him.
Indeed, he was about to close his epic creation. He was about to close Tim’s Place.
Obviously, the reasons were not financial. Tim’s Place had been an outstanding success. Tim Harris had been an outstanding success. His employees and his patrons adored him. He loved his creation.
No, Tim Harris was in love. Deep in love.
He met his girlfriend, Tiffani Johnson at the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention. They began dating and – as love often does – changed his (and her) world.
There was just one problem: Tiffani lived in Iowa.
“I always wanted a restaurant since I was a kid,” Tim says. “I’m going to miss it here, but I’m doing it for love.”
As expected, his employees were sad at first, but soon elated after Tim explained his love story.
“I’ve never met a guy like Tim. I figure I’ve been bit by a love bug.” ~Tiffani, Tim Harris’ girlfriend
From restaurant to non-profit agency, Tim continues his work
In August of 2014, Mr. Harris started ‘Tim’s Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a non-profit corporation “that aims to inspire people from all over the world to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives via entrepreneurship and inclusion in their communities.”
Tim’s vision for TBHF is symbolic of the man’s life: “to help other individuals with intellectual disabilities to start their own business. (Believing) that anyone, with the right support”, can achieve their dreams.
His foundation, fittingly named Big Heart Enterprises, is his latest entrepreneurial endeavor. He announced his new venture on Facebook:
“Hey everyone, did you know that I own my own business? I opened Tim’s Big Heart Enterprises to empower and motivate everyone to live their life to the fullest. I do this by speaking to events, conferences, and families to show that no matter what life has given you, you can live an awesome life because you are awesome! And I would love the chance to share my story with you and give out more hugs!!”
Tim, I think we’d all love to give you a hug!
Feature Image Source: CBS Evening News / YouTube