Tim owned Tim’s Place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from 2010 until December of 2015. Known as the “world’s friendliest restaurant,” Tim’s Place featured a special, the Tim Hug, guaranteed to “improve your lease on life,” according to the menu. The restaurant also featured a counter that kept track of the number of hugs Tim gave out.
You were one of the first men with Down syndrome to own a restaurant. What do you want to say to young people with Down syndrome everywhere about achieving their dreams? “My answer has to be I want people with special needs to dream big and live independently just like I have. I also would tell them, ‘Believe in other people and yourself!’”
What were the best and most challenging aspects of owning your restaurant, and who was your most memorable guest? “The best part of owning my own restaurant was meeting the people who came in through the front door. I made them feel welcomed and loved. On my YouTube video, it shows that I gave 75,402 hugs!
“The biggest challenge was trying to answer the phone and greet people at the same time.”
“One of the people I remember most was the musician Aloe Blacc, who came to the restaurant because we did things for Special Olympics. He came out to support the World Games. He’s famous and he took time to came out to support Special Olympics.”
Why did you start Tim’s Big Heart Foundation and what do you hope to achieve? “I started my foundation so we can help empower and motivate people with special needs to dream big and live independently and break down barriers.
“I do about 30 to 40 speeches a year, and I’m still traveling a lot more. I’ve traveled around the country, and the world—to Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and the White House.
“I’ve done lots of TV interviews and been on talk shows. I got asked to go to New York City and be on The View with Whoopi Goldberg and Jenny McCarthy. I also got asked to talk about my life and my restaurant on a talk show in Brazil. I travel with my life coach—she travels with me a lot. This year, I’ll be going to Mexico twice to speak.
“The CEO of Special Olympics also invited me to a State Dinner with President Obama. I asked my mom and dad to come with me. I shook the President’s hand and gave him a hug. That was a special moment right there. Oh yeah!” [Check out the video: >>President Obama gets a hug from Tim <<]
[This is Part 1 of our interview. Watch for more next week.]