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”

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.

Rosemary Rosenthal

I remember as a kid digging through the sofa cushions and everywhere else to find that last 1 cent to buy the 15 cent skyscraper ice cream cone at Isaly's in the Glannon's shopping center. We could walk there as kids so it was a special treat on those hot summer days to eat one of those great cones. My favorite of all time was chocolate chip! Mmmmm, I still remember how good it was. Long live Isaly's!!

Diane Y. Boca Raton, FL

I remember going to Isaly’s on Main Street in Butler, Pennsylvania, with my Dad when I was little (I’m now 59!) We’d buy chipped chopped ham and longhorn cheese for sandwiches. Yum! I’m so excited to find that my local Giant Eagle has it!

Debbie Waggoner, Westerville, Ohio

Found this slide while going through old family photos. My grandfather was born in Etna and dad visited there often. I believe this was taken around 72 or 73.

Ed Hughes Paso Robles, CA

Growing up in Canton, Ohio in the 50′s and early 60′s it was always a treat to go to Isaly’s for ice cream cones. My sister Cindy always ordered maricopa (I think that’s the flavor) and I thought that sounded so exotic. Our family moved to Maryland in the mid 60′s and that ended our trips to Isaly’s, but for some mysterious reason (our parent’s won’t reveal it) that is their secret code word to each other whenever they are going somewhere without the other. They are in their early 80′s now and I don’t think they will ever reveal to us what the word Isaly’s means to them. We find it kind fascinating!

Tracy Lawrence

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

When I was a little boy my grandparents lived on Welsford Street in Oakland, PA. I have fond memories of my grandfather and I walking to the Isaly’s on the Boulevard of the Allies for a huge ice cream cone. We would then walk across the street to a small park and sit on the park bench where granddad would enjoy his pipe while I savored my ice cream cone. 

Manny Romanias

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

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 worked at Isaly's in Jeannette when I was a senior in High School. The hardest job was learning how to scoop the sky scraper ice cream and place it on top of the cone so it did not fall of. My favorite meal was a chipped ham and Swiss cheese sandwich with a strawberry shake. On my last day of work before leaving for college, I cut off the tip of my finger on the slicer. (:

Tim Farabaugh Jeannette, pa

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