Owners of landmark Fat Boy Drive-In plan to reopen this month, despite lack of buyer

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BRUNSWICK — Despite the “For Sale” sign hanging on Fat Boy’s exterior since early December, owners Ken and Jeanne Burton are making plans to open the drive-in burger joint for their regular season this month.

Community members were surprised and disappointed when the landmark restaurant went up for sale this winter, calling it a “big loss for the town.”

Fat Boy first opened in 1955 when drive-in diners were in their heyday, and owners have been serving up burgers, BLTs, onion rings and nostalgia ever since. But the Burtons, who have been at the helm of the eatery for more than 30 years, are tired, Ken Burton said. They put the establishment up for sale with the hopes that someone new might step in and help keep their traditions alive.

Despite an initial flurry of interest for a listing that real estate agent Victor Tedford said was “on fire,” the $1.15 million property remains on the market three months later.

Burton said a few offers came in right away, but they “weren’t what we expected” and have since died down.

“We’re asking quite a bit of money because I know the business,” he said. The price includes the business and a number of tangible and intangible amenities – such as decades’ worth of loyal customers.

The initial goal was to have a buyer by now to help the transition into the normal season, but with none emerging, the Burtons still plan to continue business as usual.

“We’re just going to play it as we go,” Ken Burton said.

“It all depends on the weather, but hopefully (we’ll have a grand opening by) the end of March,” he said, adding they’re “hoping for a strong season.”

Burton said in December that good food, good service and good prices have kept the restaurant going even as other drive-in diners have fallen by the wayside and many chains like McDonald’s have nudged many family-owned businesses out the door.

The amount of work involved in running such an establishment, though, is one thing that Burton thinks may have deterred some potential buyers.

“A lot of businesses now aren’t owned by the same people who run them,” he said, and Fat Boy is not that kind of place. “Maybe if the person put their whole heart and soul into it (it could be),” he said, “but you’ve really got to work.”

Fat Boy struggled to attract enough summer help in recent years, ending the season early in 2016 with roughly half its usual staff. This could again be a problem, Burton said Tuesday. The couple only recently returned from a winter season out of state, and have not reached out to employees yet. “There could be some backlash from that,” he suggested.

“We’re not sure what the future holds,” Burton said, but the business remains on the market and the owners still intend to open for spring, just as they have for decades. “We’ll go from there,” he said.

Fat Boy Drive-In, a Brunswick staple for decades, has been for sale by owners Ken and Jeanne Burton for over three months.

Regular customers Bob and Nancy Benoit enjoy lunch at Fat Boy Drive-In on opening day in 2016.

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