MACHIAS, Maine — Pat’s Pizza, one of Maine’s oldest and most popular family restaurant franchises, is weeks away from expanding to a new location in Machias.

Work has been underway for months within the building at 168 Main St., which also houses a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise. On Tuesday, a four-person crew from King Construction in Jonesport was putting the finishing touches on woodwork and a custom-built bar in preparation for interior painting later in the week.

The project is a labor of love for Bill and Marti Burke of Newburgh and their son Nate, a recent graduate of the University of Maine at Machias who will manage the restaurant and oversee a 24-person staff of full-time and part-time workers. Plans call for a “soft” opening sometime in mid-May, with a more formal grand opening at a later date, Bill Burke said Tuesday.

The Burke family searched this Washington County community for well over a year for what they considered an ideal location for what will soon be the 14th Pat’s Pizza location in Maine. Started in Orono in 1931 by C.D. “Pat” Farnsworth as Farnsworth’s Cafe, the name changed after he introduced fresh dough pizza in 1953 with a secret sauce developed by his wife. Today there are Pat’s Pizza locations in Augusta, Auburn, Bar Harbor, Bethel, Dover, Herman, Lincoln, North Windham, Orono, Portland, Presque Isle, Scarborough and Yarmouth.Au

The Burke family negotiated a 10-year lease on the storefront, which is on the east side of the Route 1 causeway near its intersection with the Downeast Sunrise Trail. Like the adjacent Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, the building is owned by Sunrise Opportunities, a Machias-based social services agency that also owns the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Calais. That 10-year lease includes a provision that will allow it to be extended by an additional 10 years, Bill Burke said.

“It’s been a two-year process to get where we are,” he said, “and the community has been great. This represents a $450,000 investment, which involves both our money and loans from Machias Savings Bank and the Sunrise County Economic Council. We’ve hired local contractors and subcontractors, and we did all of our hiring through the Career Center in Machias.”

Burke said there were 135 applications for two dozen hourly jobs, including 12 kitchen staff and another 12 servers and bartenders.

“Washington County has the highest unemployment rate in the state, and I would say that at least 90 percent of those who applied didn’t have jobs,” he said. “With nearly 30 employees, we’ll be one of the community’s largest employers.”

Burke said the new restaurant will offer a menu much like the fare at Pat’s Pizza in Ellsworth, with a few variations.

“There will be a lot of stuff cooked from scratch, including the rolls for the sub sandwiches,” he said. “We’ll also have fresh-cut french fries.”

The decor will be sports-themed, showcasing historical photos of athletic teams from UM-Machias and area high schools. The restaurant will have wall-to-wall television coverage of sporting events and will include one 70-inch flat screen.

“This represents a major investment in Machias,” he said, “and our goal is to get this to be an investment hub. There hasn’t been a lot of investment here. Maybe other people will see us as someone who has taken a gamble that we expect will pay off. My research shows that one in every four sit-down meals served in the U.S. involves pizza, and everybody seems to want a beer with their pizza.”

Burke said the new restaurant will be open from 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. seven days a week.