There aren’t many things that can get in the way of a successful business, but “true love” is certainly one of those things.
According to AZFamily.com, Tim Harris is the only restaurateur in the U.S. who suffers from Down syndrome. Harris owns Tim’s Place, which thrived in Albuquerque, NM, for six years until he relocated to Colorado.
“It’s the friendliest restaurant on the planet,” Harris said. “I give out free hugs. And the food is awesome, too.”
To be exact, Harris has given out 75,402 hugs during his decade-long career as a restaurant owner. He even hugged President Barack Obama in 2014 when the White House held an event honoring the Special Olympics.
“You know, presidents need some encouragement once in a while, too,” Obama said. “That felt really good. That was nice. Thank you, Tim.”
Despite his success, Harris decided to drop everything and start over when he met Tiffani Johnson at a Down syndrome convention. About 71% of people believe in love at first sight, and Johnson immediately knew that Harris was the one for her.
“I think I got hit by the love bug,” Johnson recalled.
The couple has been dating since that day at the convention. In order to spend more time with Johnson, Harris closed Tim’s Place and moved closer to Denver, where he plans on opening a new restaurant.
There are very few entrepreneurs in the U.S. with Down syndrome, but trailblazers like Harris are beginning to change that narrative.
As The San Diego Tribune reported, 19-year-old Jasmine Prince, who also suffers from Down syndrome, has founded a successful sewing business in Encinitas, CA. She hopes to use her profits to become the next big star on the Disney Channel.
Laura Prince, Jasmine’s mom, believes that there are people like her daughter all over the country who can help businesses succeed if given the chance.
“They’re just invisible from society for no good reason,” Laura said. “Because they’re slow, they don’t get the opportunity to shine at jobs. But more people need to know there are willing hands and willing hearts out there needing work.”
As for Tim Harris, his work ethic certainly hasn’t suffered since meeting his new girlfriend. Harris currently tours the country as a motivational speaker, and he even hosted his very own TED Talk in 2015.