The History of Isaly’s

Photo Mahoning Valley Historical Society

The Making of a Family Tradition

The story begins in 1833 when Swiss cheesemaker, Christian Isaly and his family crossed the seas with his family to join other Swiss settlers in the picturesque hills of Monroe County, Ohio. Packed with their belongings was Isaly’s most precious possession: his copper cheese kettle.

Generations of Isalys carried on the family trade, expanding from cheese making to dairy farming, and delivering bottled milk from house to house in horse-drawn carts. Eventually they formed Isaly’s Dairy Companies to sell farm-fresh dairy products and a wide variety of fresh deli meats and cheeses through Isaly’s own chain of retail stores in Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania.

A tradition was born as families streamed in on warm summer evenings for the now legendary “Skyscraper” cones, butter, cheese, baked ham and bologna and, of course, Isaly’s signature Chipped Chopped Ham and Old Fashioned Ice Cream.

See below for images from Brian Butko’s The Story of Isaly’s: Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones. To learn more about the history of Isaly’s, please visit Brian Butko’s website www.brianbutko.com.
  • Swiss dairy farm scene that hung in Isaly’s stores. Photo Gaylord LaMond.

  • The famous copper cheese kettle was displayed for years at various Isaly’s plants. Photo William R. Isaly.

  • George Krohe at the Homewood Isaly’s, east of Pittsburgh, in 1932. From left: Helen Hartley, Jim Wilson, Krohe, and Sue Phieffer. Photo George Krohe.

  • Painted signs at Marion indicated that the rear buildings were part of the plant. William R. Isaly

  • Pamela Grell believes that this is the first day of the Skyscraper scoop, designed by her father, Sam Jennings. Store supervisor Carl Rafoth is scooping the cones at the Youngstown plant salesroom while Grell’s dad watches (at Rafoth’s right). Photo Pamela Grell.

  • Pittsburgh-branch stores aimed for a modern, uniform look. Here, the Canonsburg Isaly’s store-front shows off trendy art deco lettering. Photo Mrs. Ralph M. McAfee.

Click here to view historical Isaly’s clips from WQED, voiced by Rick Sebak.


The Tradition Goes On

In the 1980’s, after the Isaly family retired, the baton was passed to long time provisioners and friends, the Deily family. After much success, the brand changed hands once more in 2015 when Tim Deily sold it to food industry veterans Jim and Leslee Conroy, owners of Conroy Foods, Inc. The Conroys have been in the food business since 1986, building Beano’s Original Deli Condiments from a restaurant in Blawnox, PA of the same name. Tim trusted the Conroy family to carry on the incredible legacy of quality associated with the name Isaly’s–keeping the brand, in essence, “all in the family.” Under the Conroys, Isaly’s deli products have met steady demand in food chains and independent stores all over Southwest Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and beyond by remaining passionately committed to preserving Isaly’s original recipes and quality.


Today’s Isaly’s Nation

Once a fan, always a fan! Isaly’s Nation exists here in Pittsburgh and around the country. Aside from your favorite grocery store, you can get an Isaly’s chipped ham sandwich at Heinz Field or grab a scoop of Isaly’s Whitehouse Cherry ice cream at PNC Park. People who’ve moved away from Isaly’s Nation make a point of taking Isaly’s Chipped Chopped Ham back to their new hometowns. Pittsburgh Steeler Clubs around the country have Isaly’s Chipped Chopped Ham shipped in for big games. And people who live where Isaly’s is sold just keep going back for more -not just Isaly’s Original Chipped Chopped Ham and Barbecue Sauce but Old Fashioned Ice Cream and a whole line of Isaly’s Deli Hams, Turkey, and Cheeses. Did you “Remember Isaly’s” when you shopped this week?

  • Grab an Isaly’s Chipped Chopped Ham Sandwich at Heinz Field while cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pitt Panthers! The stand is located in the Fed Ex Great Hall between sections 101 and 106.

  • Treat yourself to a scoop of Isaly’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream while you root for the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park! Flavors include Isaly’s original Whitehouse Cherry and Maricopa (butterscotch) as well as other delicious fan favorites. Find us at the Sweet Spot, located in Section 119.

  • Martino’s on Vine, a Steeler’s bar in Cincinnati, ready to watch a playoff game complete with some Isaly’s Chipped Chopped Ham and barbecue sauce.

“I Remember Isaly’s”

Is this a real scene, and if so, where was it? I have been unable to find the identity of the original artist. I'm wondering if this is a real scene, or if it was created by the artist as a typical Christmas city-scape.

michael schwartz Morristown, NJ

As a kid I remember my grandmother taking me to Pgh & McKeesport Isaly' s and my favorite was the ham barbecue sandwich . Before moving to Florida 15 years ago the Irwin store was still there ,but even though we travel to Pgh .each year it has been forgotten about, but you can bet I will be picking up a batch of Isaly's ham soon

Ed Gueth Sr ocala,Fl

I grew up in Monongahela, PA and remember going just about everyday as a child to Isaly’s. Either for the Klondikes, Chipped ham or those amazing deviled crabs. When I misbehaved it was my trip to Isaly’s that was taken away from me..as you can imagine I didn’t misbehave too much. I now own a hot dog cart in Arizona and whenever I make a trip back to the “burgh” I always bring several pounds of the chipped ham. Until it”s gone I serve an amazing “sammich” for all the Pittsburghers that live out here. I have a great all beef hot dog and then top with a heap of juicy warm Isaly’s chipped ham and some fresh grated Asiago cheese. The “burghers” LOVE IT! And for the moment they are reminded of their childhood back in the Steel city. Thanks Isaly’s for keeping those memories alive. 

Randy Walters

Back in the 60's, when I was in Junior High (we didn't call it Middle School back then), my dad and I would often go to his office downtown in the afternoon. He'd work and I'd just poke around downtown. A 14 year old kid could do that safely back then. On the ride home, we'd pass an Isaly's in Mount Lebanon, and stop for a Maricopa skyscraper to eat in the car on the way home. That was our secret. We never told my mother about it.

George Erdner Duluth, GA

I always loved going into the Isaly's at The Crossroads in Mcmurray, pa. There was a lady who worked there that had the highest bee hive I have ever seen!!!!

Connie Lewis Bethel Park, Pa

I was an Isaly Blue Ribbon Baby when I was 2 years old and living in Marion OH. I have a newspaper clipping with my photo in it and have attached a copy of the letter to my parents. I was recently in Marion and looked for the original Isaly’s on Center Street, but couldn’t find it. I have fond memories of going to Isaly’s for ice cream.

Cindy Burdge Aloise

There once was an Isaly’s located in Columbus Ohio, on the corner of Mt. Vernon Ave. and 20th. My Grandmother, Sarah Bishop, used to walk my two brothers and myself down there once a week and allow us to order what we wanted. I used to always order a slice of a chocolate ice cream roll up cake. Once it was sliced it looked like a chocolate pin wheel. It was the richest chocolate with the creamiest ice cream in the center. I don’t care to do a commercial but I do want you to know how thrilled I am that Isaly’s still exists. I am 65 years of age now, but the name “Isaly’s” triggers wonderful and endearing memories.

Veronica Turner

I worked at the Islay's in Clairton, Pa in the 80's. What I wouldn't give for a Rainbow Ice cream cone. Was my favorite flavor! Any chance of bringing that back? Also, if anyone has the ham salad recipe they could share that would be great!

LouAnn Goodrum White Oak

I was employed at Isaly's from 1941 to 1971, in retail home delivery. I was sales manager, working under William Isaly. Great memories remain…

Leonard Shaw

I remember going to Isaly’s on Main Street in Butler, Pennsylvania, with my Dad when I was little (I’m now 59!) We’d buy chipped chopped ham and longhorn cheese for sandwiches. Yum! I’m so excited to find that my local Giant Eagle has it!

Debbie Waggoner, Westerville, Ohio

Share your Own Isaly’s Memory