Dwight D. Eisenhower was president in 1953, the year the first Corvette was introduced.

That same year, the Jolly Cone was opened in Van Buren as an ice cream drive-in restaurant. For 66 years, the Jolly Cone has continued to offer soft-serve cones and jolly burgers from March to October.

Betty Helvey, 62, and her son Adam, 38, are the fourth owners of Jolly Cone and have been managing the drive-in for six years. Their partners are husband, Rick, and daughter-in-law, Melissa. 

"We're one of the only little places like this left," Adam Helvey said. "You've got your Dairy Queens and what-have-you's, but you don't find anyone who is still the mom-and-pop shop who tries to take care of their locals." 

The Jolly Cone has 24 employees — all girls. It was prom night when we visited, and around 15 students in dresses and suits were stopping by the drive-in before the big event.

Jolly Cone also takes care of military personnel and police officers, offering a 10 percent discount to all active and retired men and women of service.

The owners decided to dedicate a particular dessert in their honor: the patriotic banana split.

"It's red, white and blue," Adam said. "Blueberry, marshmallow and strawberry, and it's something that was so popular that we decided to keep it."

Other popular menu items include the Jolly Burger, actually a homemade sloppy Joe, and classic sundaes.

As for the side dishes, it's all about cheese.

"The most popular side would be our cheddar crisp and french fries covered in cheese," Betty Helvey said. "Everything comes with cheese."

Above all else, nostalgia and a "down-to-earth" feel bring customers back, she said. Because Van Buren is a small town, the owners say they don't mind if customers stay at the drive-in for extended periods of time.

"We've had customers sit and talk out here on the patio until midnight," Adam Helvey said. "We don't run anybody off because that can be a customer for tomorrow."

  • Community Reporter - Spring 2019. Studying magazine journalism. Reach me at zachfoor11@gmail.com or in the newsroom at 882-5720.

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