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”

My mother worked at the lunch counter at the main Isaly's in the late 30's. It was here that she met my father. Are there pictures posted during this time frame? By the way, the Klondikes were my favorite.

Ernie Reid Granville, OH

I worked at the Isaly's in Washington Pennsylvania 5 or 6 years. Great company to work for. The skyscraper ice cream cones were hard to make at the beginning but once you learned the tricks they were easy to make. One of my customers was the singer Perry Como, from nearby Cannonsburg. My favorite ice cream to this day maricopa. We now live in Florida and when we go back load up on the bar b que sauce to make our favorite Isaly's Bar B Que sandwiches.

Bill Adams Palm Harbor Florida

I grew up in Kittanning, PA, a little town upriver from Pittsburgh. My parents had a furniture store and just around the block was an Isaly's. It was definitely the favorite place to go. Like everyone else, we loved the chipped ham and a chipped ham sandwich was my very favorite after school snack. My memory is drawn especially, though, to the selection of ice creams and the tall skyscraper cones. They were terrific and you could not find anything like them anywhere else. In 1960 we moved to Florida and after I married, my wife and I moved to Utah. But my roots are always in western Pennsylvania and among my treasured memories is Islay's. At the end of this month, my wife and I will be visiting Pittsburgh and Kittanning with my adult son. How I wish I could take them to an Isaly's!

Gary McKean Lawton, Utah

I worked at the Islay's in Clairton, Pa in the 80's. What I wouldn't give for a Rainbow Ice cream cone. Was my favorite flavor! Any chance of bringing that back? Also, if anyone has the ham salad recipe they could share that would be great!

LouAnn Goodrum White Oak

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!

Doug Howard greensburg

I was born and raised in Titusville, PA. In the mid sixties I worked at the bank across the street from Isaly’s. Every morning before work a few of us “regulars” would meet for coffee at Isaly’s. I’ve lived in the SF Bay Area for 44 years now. I really miss my small town days and Isaly’s is a particularly good memory. Ice cream, chip chopped ham with BBQ sauce, dill pickles! I would kill for a chip chopped ham sandwich with BBQ sauce!!

Barbara Edwards Martinez

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.

AH Roberts Harwich Port Ma

My parents, Bill and Mary Francis, owned the Isaly's Store in Minerva, Ohio. We grew up working the soda fountain and having all those ice creams, chip-chopped, Klondikes at our fingertips. My whole family was a part of the business and we learned a lot from our parents. We learned to work hard, be a member of the community and strive to be the best.

Cindy Francis Dallas, Texas

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

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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