BRUNSWICK, Maine — Ken Burton has weathered most of his 72 summers in midcoast Maine, but he said Monday he hasn’t been to Popham Beach since high school.
He hasn’t gone fishing, or enjoyed a night out with his wife — at least, a night that didn’t end with rushing back to Brunswick to make hundreds of onion rings.
Since 1984, Burton has owned and operated Fat Boy Drive In and Restaurant on Bath Road. He took it over from his father, who had run it with his uncle since his uncle started the popular eatery in 1955.
On Friday, Balfour Commercial Realty posted a “For Sale” placard on the iconic illuminated sign that only a couple of months ago foretold the coming of winter with the annual “Closing For the Season” announcement.
Midcoast residents almost subconsciously check the sign throughout the winter, waiting anxiously for the day in March when that sign changes to “Opening Soon.”
“We usually open the third or fourth Thursday in March,” Burton said. “It all depends on if we get weather. People get a little upset if they don’t see that sign.”
Balfour Commercial Realty lists Fat Boy as a “popular turn-key restaurant … known to thousands around the world for its nostalgic business flavor.”’
Real estate broker Victor Tedford on Monday confirmed the listing and the asking price of $1.15 million. Tedford said at 11:15 a.m. Monday that he’d been fielding phone calls and emails for four hours.
Burton said Fat Boy weathered the closing of Brunswick Naval Air Station just fine, and has continued to draw locals and people “from away” every year.
According to the listing, the business sees an annual net profit of $155,117.
“We’ve got a ton who stop in if they’re going up to Bar Harbor — this is their first stop,” he said. “We hear from a lot of people, ‘We just got off the plane and had to come to Fat Boy before we go anywheres else.’”
“At my age, it’s too much time to put in,” Burton said. “We kinda decided last year [to scale back], but we still put in a lot of hours.”
For years, Burton has arrived by 5 a.m. to make onion rings, worked through lunch, and then returned by 4 or 5 p.m. to work the dinner shift.
“Sometimes I might have a night off, but I have to go back to close,” he said.
Burton said he employs about six servers who have each been there about 10 years. Each year, he said, he usually loses just one.
“We used to hire 12 to 16 high school kids but over the last two years or so we’ve only had three to four applicants,” he said. Burton attributed that to more intense athletic schedules and practice schedules.
Burton hopes to see someone buy the business and not make many changes. He thinks local patrons would be happy to see that as well.
“I’d like to go there and be a customer,” he said, laughing.