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”

I worked at Isaly’s in Austintown, Ohio 1964. My father worked at the big Isaly’s in Youngstown, Ohio 1948. I now live in upstate NY, & I went into a hobby shop that has train models. There was a tanker with “Isaly’s” on it. I also can never spell “Isaly’s” with out saying the “I shall always love you sweetheart.” I still have my badge from Isaly’s with my name on it. I bet I could make the tallest sky scraper ice cream cone ever on earth. Good, happy memories.

Angela Barbone St. Regis Falls, NY

Isaly's: A Story"Isaly's" ((( A Story )))It was a family made store With the skyscraper cone And surely the Klondike With a name of its ownAnd the Chipped Chopped Ham Was the ultimate king And the sit-down-tables Was a wonderful thingAnd the checkered made floor In its green & white classic Is what really and truly Made it fantasticAnd last but not least Was the outside sign With the trademark Isaly's In their black & white design

Billie Nardozzi Green Tree, PA

When I was growing up in Wadsworth, Ohio we had our own Isaly’s there. The ice cream counter with the hand-dipped ice cream, and not to forget the great shakes that went with the juicy burgers & hot fries! I remember an individual jukebox on each table top. It was so much fun pushing the buttons, I think we drove our parents nuts on that! Your chipped chopped ham was a lunch staple for school. My brother to this day, still buys it when he is near an Isaly’s provider. Thank you for letting me share my memories!

Elizabeth Leedy

We moved to Mars, PA from West View…..but LOVED our dentist appointments because we always knew we could have Isaly’s for a treat. How I so looked forward to those visits. Strange ….how a kid could have good memories of a doctor or dentist visit. THANKS ISALY’S!!!!! I now am grown and live in KY with my own family……but continue to order from you. Don’t ever stop!!!!!

Diane Coleman

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 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

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

My family always had Isaly's at reunions!

Tim Bickerton Beaver, PA

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

Jerry Sanborn Lancaster, Ohio

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

Share your Own Isaly’s Memory