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.
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.
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 remember visiting our grandparents in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1950s. On a summer evening, we’d all get in the car and drive to Isaly’s for an ice cream cone. I always got maricopa ice cream. Those were great memories.
While a senior in high school in 1965, I was lucky enough to have worked at Isaly's in Dormont, Pa. I remember in October of that year I actually became the head clerk working 40 hours/week, making a huge $1/hour. It really was a good wage for a high school kid and let me save money for college books and also take my girlfriend out 2 to 3 times a week. The work ethic of the career Isaly employees provided lessons that were the foundation for success in life. We were known for our skyscraper cones, and klondikes. plus whitehouse and Maricopa ice cream. Skyscraper cones required practice to make them correctly, because if you made them too large, the customer could end up with a huge 15 cent cone and Isaly's would lose money. I wish I could remember my managers name, because he and the assistant manager, Mr. Fonner, ran a great store. The daytime porter, Bill, (we called him the old Dad) prepared all the food sold on the lunch steam table and made the best ham salad in the world. The general public didn't know it, but all "ends" of the deli meats and cheeses went into the mix of the ham salad. In reality, the mix was probably 90+% baked ham, boiled ham, chipped ham, kosher corned beef, corned beef, and even a small amount of bologna and salami. I had pride knowing that Isaly's sold the best quality foods and look back fondly at those experiences. I remember some of the prices of our products in 1965. I do recall that the ice cream cones were 7 cents for the child single scoop, 10 cents for the small sky scraper and 15 cents for the large skyscraper. Klondikes were a dime. Chipped ham was 59 cents/lb. - (49cents/lb. on sale.) Baked ham was 89 cents/lb. - (69 cents/lb. on sale.)
I remember your grandfather..tall fella..My Grandmother Ruth Whalen worked in the bakery I think 1 day a week. My mother took me and my 5 brothers and sisters in for a coke after shopping! My mother was Patricia Whalen from North Irwin...found memories!
Loved the tall cones, but when i could get a hot fudge suday with marshmallow and caramel was the best thing I ever ate..loved the klondikes also.. lived near the Blvd of the Allies plant.. I am 81 and still have fond memories my sister would babysit for neighbors and send me store for treats . What fine fun
I grew up in Dormont. Isaly’s was my very first job. I was hired when I was 16 and worked for about 7 years. All the locals hung out there and just talked for hours. It was like being at a family reunion only everyday. All of my co-workers and managers were good friends which is why it was probably the best job I’ve ever had. I recently went back to work in Dormont and now the people who come into my place of employment still remember me when I worked at Isaly’s. I still see and hear from some of my old co-workers and that is very special to me.
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.
I was a student at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania in the mid-1960's. The town had an Isaly's, and my friend Neil and I would go there regularly for the chipped ham sandwiches and especially the ice cream. As I recall they had a special scoop for their ice cream cones and there was some sort of guarantee that the ice cream wouldn't fall out of the cone. They also made corned beef sandwiches out of canned corned beef, and because I as a New Jersey native was raised on delicatessen corned beef I savored these as the closest I could get to what I had at home.
Our family always enjoyed a trip to Isaly's for a ice cream cone or bringing some hand packed ice cream home while living in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh. After a shopping trip with my grandparents, we always stopped at Isalys on Main Street in Butler. We loved the chip chopped ham. I didn't realize that the Klondike bars we buy in upstate New York were made by Isalys until recently. A few years ago when visiting Butler, it looked like the Main Street store was long gone. We had a great dinner at Natilis Italian restaurant that has been family run for years.
We used to walk from our home on Fifth Ave. to what we called “the big Isaly’s” on the Blvd. If my mom had the money we’d get a chipped ham sandwich and take it to the park and spend the day. Or we’d just get ice cream and walk back home. It was the most wonderful times back in the 50′s.
We lived near the Isaly’s in Bethel Park, PA. My mom, step-brother and myself would go in on a Saturday and wait in a long line for chipped ham and all the other foods Isaly’s sold that was so good. I think we got a pink free klondike once. As we rounded the bend waiting to get to the counter my eyes got so big looking at all the goodies on the shelves. Also, my Mom and I would go down to Isaly’s get our Skyscraper ice cream cones and park the car in the parking lot and watch the South Park drive-in movie. My grandparents and I would go in when I was little, sit at the tables, and eat our ice cream. My grandma would get rainbow and I know I would almost always get chocolate chip, my favorite.