The History of Isaly’s

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”

My Dad was employed by Isaly's, starting in the early days with the horses. I grew up on Isaly milk and you cannot get that good tasting milk today in Atlanta. What a treat it was to go to Isaly’s in Youngstown for lunch and a skyscraper ice cream cone plus visit with my Dad, plus a very special Aunt and Uncle who were also employed there. We still bring back chipped chopped ham when we go back to Youngstown for a visit. HMMMMMM HMMMMM GOOD! Yes, I certainly have many fond memories.

Diana Balas, Fayetteville, GA

My father was a 'window trimmer' for Isalys during the '40's and 50's, until the company went to a leaner, cleaner look. Isalys windows were quite elaborately decorated during that period, Our house was almost always used as storage for the next window change. Dad traveled to Ohio, West Virginia and of course Pittsburgh to work his magic in those windows. In my mind, I see them still.

Margery Neill Boyle Beaufort SC

I grew up with Isaly’s in Sewickley, PA. My family lived only 4 doors away from the local store. What a treat it was to buy a rainbow or a maricopa skyscraper cone! My Dad loved the chocolate chip with the jimmies inside. I’ve never seen another CC like it. And my favorite lunch was, and always will be, a fresh chipped ham sandwich and a vanilla milkshake!

Cathy Kroepil

Mary's MemoryOh! Isaly's has been a part of my life, for the past 79 years. I'm 85 and in my day, once you were 6 years old, especially being #10 of 11 children, you were helping with shopping, and so many other things. Of course, i remember the "Sky Scraper Ice Cream Cones, the Klondikes that if you bit into the ice cream and saw a stripe of Strawberry (Pink) Ice cream, you got a free one! We grew-up on Isaly's Chipped Ham Sandwiches, especially with the Bar-B-Q sauce. We also made what we called: "Hot Sandwiches", where in you prepared the Chipped ham, a piece of Cheese and some condiments; wrapped them in foil and heated them in the oven for few minutes and served them hot! wow, what a treat! My dear mom and her friends had a "Card Club" in their day and when it was my mom's turn to have the game at our house, she always served the ladies sandwiches of Isaly's Chipped Ham at our Christmas Party, my son made a crock pot of Isaly's Bar-B-Q Chipped ham for all of us to enjoy! Isaly's holds many wonderful memories for me! i still love Klondikes and now, I'm so hungry for some Isaly's Bar-B-Q Chipped ham!

Mary Lou Carr

My grandparents use to own the Isaly's in Irwin PA and I have so many good memories of making the donuts and selling all the good products.

Melissa Lewis

Starting round 1962,my dad would take me and my little sister to Isaly's after he did the grocery shopping. I would always get a chocolate skyscraper ice cream cone ,and she would get a chocolate milk shake. It was a rare and Very BIG treat for us!! We loved the skyscraper ice cream cones, but they occasionally toppled off the cone. We grew up eating Chipped Ham from Isaly’s… Thanks for the memory!!

Wendy & Alison

When I was a child about 6 years old,1950, I met Mrs. Isaly. I lived in Youngstown, Ohio and my Uncle was in charge of maintenance at the Isaly factory. My dad and I went through the factory and they had a machine that made Klondike ice cream bars. At that time Klondike bars were chocolate covered ice cream with a wooden stick in them. I now noticed that all Klondike bars consist of chocolate covered ice cream without the stick. Do the stick versions still exist?

Walter E Meyer Leonard, MI

I liked the ice cold buttermilk in cone contaners

byron huntington sebring ohio

Every Friday my mother ordered breaded haddock from the Irwin Isaly's which was owned and operated by Art Lewis. It was the best tasting breaded fish we have ever eaten and to this day I can still remember the delicious taste.

DARLENE HURTIG Cockeysville, Md

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

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