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”

I now live in Independence, LA, and every time I come to Pittsburgh to visit my family, I either bring a small ice chest, or buy one…and load up on chipped ham and sauce. My daughter and I look forward to it every time we come to PA. 

Robin Drago

My family always had Isaly's at reunions!

Tim Bickerton Beaver, PA

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 grew up overseas in my childhood years because my dad was a US Diplomat but when he would be on furlough, our family of 9 (7 kids and my mom and dad) would fly up to my dad's hometown of Apollo, PA to visit granny and grandad but first stop always was Isaly's! To this day, my memories of going to Vandergrift, to get my rainbow ice cream and hearing us all shout out our flavors is so exciting! This Thursday, my 90 yr. Old Daddy and I are going to PA for him to see old friends and family and his health is not great but what is he asking about? Isaly's!

Debra Gallagher Betolatti Lilburn,GA

I will never forget the famous ice cream at Isaly's on each trip to Pittsburgh area. It was something to look forward to especially on hot summer nights! We made numerous road trips "back in the day" but always looked forward to Isaly's when we got to Pittsburgh. Thanks for the memories .... Jeannie

Jeannie Martone Miami, Florida

Grew up behind the store in Marion Ohio. The best of times going to get ice cream and watching the ice cream being made in the factory. Angelo Dorian was the greatest manager of the plant a great man who loved making ice cream and running the restaurant.

Green 382 Marion, Ohio

The unforgettable part of each shopping trip to downtown New Castle, PA with my Mom and my sister Mary Ann, was how each would end: with an Isaly's ice cream soda, or root beer float, or "just" an ice cream cone (oh, chocolate marshmallow, you are so missed!), and of course, mounds of chipped ham to go. Years later, I was lucky enough to get one of the most coveted apartments in Slippery Rock during my senior year there, on Main St. above the hardware store - with Isaly's right next door. Great friends, great apartment, and Isaly's at the bottom of the stairs. It just does not get any better than that!

Jeannette Passaretti Glendale, Arizona

Butterscotch Ripple ice cream was always my favorite at Isaly's as well as their baked steak dinner.

Jerry Sanborn Lancaster, Ohio

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

It was a real treat on Sunday afternoons when we would walk with my Dad to the Isaly’s in Ellwood City for an ice cream cone or Klondike. He would also buy some chipped ham to have for lunches during the week. I would give anything to be able to walk with my Dad to Isaly’s just 1 more time. 

Don Mohr

Share your Own Isaly’s Memory