This summer, there is no Joe's

All good things come to an end.

Joe Confection Co. has been part of Seattle summers for more than 40 years. But this year, the fleet of little white Jeeps peddling ice cream and frozen pops will be silent. Higher operating costs have gotten the better of owners John and Linda Drake.

Specifically, the cost of liability insurance for drivers under 21 — many of Joe's employees — has skyrocketed. Covering those higher costs became too tough.

"Insurance went up over 25 percent," John Drake said. "It was one of the main factors behind our decision.

"It was a hard decision to make since it's a family business. I tried to sell it to somebody who would run it like us, but we couldn't find anybody."

Lake City-based Joe Confection was founded in 1961 by Linda Drake's father, James McCoy. The name of the company comes from the first truck McCoy bought — it had "Joe" painted on the passenger door. The Drakes took over the business in 1983.

At one time Drake had more than 40 Joe trucks — former Postal Service Jeeps given a second life as purveyor of Good Humor ice cream to children — ting-a-linging through parks, neighborhoods and business parks.

Problems started during the overheated economy of the 1990s, when it was difficult to find young drivers for the trucks, and 15 had to be sold. In recent years, higher premiums for liability insurance, especially for drivers under 21, made the business less profitable.

"The construction workers wanted to buy ice cream, but the driver said 'I'm not going down there,' " said Dean Knight, mechanic at Joe Confection for more than 20 years. "So they lowered the truck with the crane, the workers picked their ice cream, and he made his sale."

Joe's even brought people together. A man who had been working for the Drakes at their warehouse for 10 summers met and fell in love with a female ice-cream truck driver. They married last year and rode in an ice-cream truck from the church to the reception.

"Now we call it the wedding truck," John Drake said.

Not everyone was enamored with the trucks, however. In 1998, someone complained to Dear Abby about the trucks' loud music.

"Don't fight an institution akin to Mom and apple pie," Dear Abby responded. "No doubt many adults find ice cream trucks annoying; however, they have a timeless appeal to children, and I have even heard some grown-ups admit that the music takes them back to their childhood.

"When you hear the truck approaching, cover your ears and observe the delight on the faces of the children around it. The good humor may be contagious."

The closing of Joe Confection means an end to all these stories and has made the owners nostalgic and more than a little sad.

"It was a hard decision to let go of this business," said Linda Drake. "Especially for the children."

"When the kids started calling, asking, 'Where's the truck?' it was really sad," John Drake said.

Although Joe's is gone, some of its ice-cream trucks will continue to roam Seattle, albeit with different names. In the Joe warehouse, 14 Jeeps wait to be sold to the next generation of ice-cream sellers.

"But then they shut down, and I didn't know what to do," Hebert said. "(John) Drake said I could buy one of his trucks, and he'd help me out and give me some coaching."

Now Hebert is a small-business owner, ready to carry on Joe's legacy. The name? Popsicle Paris.

"This suits my lifestyle more," Hebert said. "I'm my own boss."

Meanwhile, the Drakes will concentrate on their other businesses — real-estate management and parking-lot cleaning — and enjoy more free time.

"For the first time, I will have a summer to myself," Linda Drake said.

Angel Gonzalez: 206-464-3312 or