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 worked at the Isaly's Store on Lincoln Way Avenue in White Oak, Pa. in 1964 It was a hard job for a 13-year-old school boy but I sure enjoyed the fringe benefits of Klondikes and the best ice cream. I have lived in The Great State of Texas since 1978 and I occasionally buy chipped ham from the local grocery store - but it is no comparison to the delicious chipped ham I used to slice for customers. (Of course most all foods were better and more healthy "back in the day"!) Great memories!

Keith R. Phillips Houston, Texas

I lived in Aliquippa and there was an Isaly’s store just a block from my home on Moretta Road across from Laughlin School. I always got a cone that was the new style shaped like a pyramid and it was rainbow ice cream. I remember always buying chipped ham to take in my lunch everyday. I still love it and when I used to have super bowl parties I had a friend that would go home from St. Louis every weekend and bring me 5 pounds of it and I’d freeze it and take a little of it every week to have in my sandwiches then too. NO ONE makes it like ISALY’S does, NO ONE. Now, I”m going to a super bowl party this weekend and have no Isaly’s chipped ham. How sad..

Patricia Monahan Chavez

I am originally from Titusville, PA . However, I have lived outside Augusta, Georgia for the past 25 years. While we were visiting family in Titusville this summer my wife discovered a jar of the barbecue sauce in a grocery store. I couldn’t believe it because after all of these years I thought Isaly’s had completely gone out of business. There used to be an Isaly’s store in Titusville until it closed probably 45 years ago. I absolutely LOVED eating the barbecue sandwiches until the store closed its doors forever so many years ago. The ladies that worked there knew just how much I loved them because I normally would eat 3 of them every time I visited the store. Anyway, after I ordered my third sandwich one day one of the counter ladies handed me a folded piece of paper and told me to give it to my mother. She said as much as I love the barbecue sandwiches she wanted my mother to have the recipe. Ever since that day so many years ago, I still eat barbecue sandwiches using the original recipe the lady gave me. As a matter of fact, my wife just finished making a batch (2 lbs of meat) for tomorrow’s lunch. By the way, I still eat 3 of them!!

Lee Irwin

When I was a child my favorite was Isaly's in Mahoningtoww & there giant vanilla cones. Later when I worked for my Dad at PAGLEY Shoe Repair that's where I ate lunch. The had the best apple pie top off with a large scoop of ice cream. Days gone by never to be again . SO SAD .

Paul R. Pagley New Castle Pa.

I grew up in Mansfield, Ohio where we had a couple of Isaly's stores. In the 60's we had a store on W. 4th St. and a store and cheese making plant on Franklin Ave. My dad's favorite past time was going for rides in the car and stopping to get ice cream. We spent a lot of time at Isaly's, and I have some wonderful family past time memories and of the best ice cream and milk shakes in town. I also remember a field trip our East Mansfield Elementary School class took to Isaly's to see how cheese was made. These memories are priceless and whenever I see old glassware (milk jugs) from long ago, I always check for the name "Isaly's" on it.

Katherine Weber Mansfield, Ohio

I am one of the great grandsons of the one and only William Isaly. Born and raised in a small Montana town, I have never tasted Isaly’s chipped chopped ham. However I have read the many and passionate testimonies of the chipped chopped fans, and the simple thought of it makes my mouth water!!!

Keegan Isaly

I grew up in Beaver Falls, PA and going downtown to Isaly’s was quite the treat for my sisters and I. Mom and dad would pile us in the car, pick up my grandma and aunt, and away we would go. I remember hot fudge sundaes, and banana splits. We wouldn’t leave without getting a pound of chipped ham to take home. My mom was originally from Jeannette, PA and when we would go back to visit her family we would stop at the shop there! What memories!

Terri Lynn Noss-Hagen

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

When I was a kid, after shopping in Jeannette, Pa., and before boarding the bus, mother & I would stop in Isaly's to buy an ice cream cone with a big long scoop of lime ice cream and a pack of black licorice, those were my favorite. And of coarse a pound of that out of this world chipped chopped ham to take home. Here out west no deli ever heard of chipped ham, you have to stand there and explain how thin to cut it--rarely you can find chopped ham. Thanks Isaly's for the wonderful and unforgettable memories. - Shirley H in Roseburg, Oregon

Shirley H in Roseburg, Oregon

Isaly's was the local delivery and ice cream store. There was one on Potomac Ave in Dormont Pa that I visited in the 50's. Skyscapers, Klondikes, Chopped Chipped Ham, Banana Splits were the best. Never forget this legacy store of the Burgh 🙂

John Sun Lakes Az

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