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”

The year was 1965. I've just served my four year tour in the US Navy on board a Destroyer Escort (DE-1021) the USS COURTNEY. My Uncle got me a job delivering furniture for Stearns in Monesson. Every lunchtime I would get two pounds of that delicious Isalys Chipped Ham and an eight pack of sesame seed buns and hungrily devour it all in one sitting. Seems kind of weird now but that's a fact. Was used to eating good in the Navy and continued that routine for quite a while after that. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, has the fresh, delicious tasting chipped ham like Isalys and can't wait for my next delivery. Thanks Isalys for still being around.

Joe Banana

I LOVE ISALY’S!! It brings back such wonderful memories of my dad and me going to German Village in Columbus, OH and going to the Isaly’s store. My favorite was ice cream and and vanilla phosphate drink. It was a special treat.

Kristi Bonkowski 

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.

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 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

I can remember going to Isaly’s when I was a young girl. We would get Ice Cream and my favorite chipped chopped ham. I loved it. I haven’t been able to find chipped chopped ham as good anywhere else.

Theresa Sestito

When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived in Englewood, PA. While visiting them from Wisconsin, I fell down a big hill in the back of their house and my grandmother gave me some Isaly’s chipped ham to lessen my tears and ease my pain! From that point forward, I was hooked. If I would get sick, my mom would always say, “How about a ham sandwich, Kay Ann?” She knew I was feeling better when I would eagerly say, “Yes, please!” 

Kay Wightman

I grew up in Elizabeth Pa. back in the 1960's. When we wanted to go to town, we got on the bus and went to McKeesport. The best part of the trip was lunch at Isalys. Sometimes it was chipped ham BBQ, sometimes it was ham salad. Chocolate milk and a Klondike Bar were usually included. On occasion, Mom would buy me one of those boxes of animal crackers that looked like a bus. I would play with that box for a long time after the crackers were gone ! I moved to Virginia in the early 80's. Sadly, there are no Isalys here. But I do order the BBQ sauce online. If only I could get some of that wonderful ham to go with it.

Lisa Robertson Reedville, Va.

My grandparents and 4 of their children, and a million of my cousins, all live in the Pittsburgh area. As a kid, I am 54, my family would come to visit. I always heard about Isaly’s and loved their Klondike bars. It wasn’t till my brother and I (he’s 48) were arguing about Klondike bars that I thought to look up your website. Lo and behold another wonderful memory came to me. Isaly’s chipped ham. I had forgotten about that wonderful taste. My Uncle would bring some home and it was gone in a second. I was sad to see I cannot get it here in Texas. Someday I want to bring my husband and daughter to Pittsburgh and we will be buying Isaly’s chipped ham for sure.

Fran Hoyt, Houston, TX

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

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