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.
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.
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’m 57 years old but still have the fondest memories of stopping by Isaly’s in Marion, Ohio, to get a nickel cone. The family favorite was rainbow ice cream…NOT sherbet, but ice cream! No one can duplicate it or ever will. And, yes, the chipped ham was to die for! Another memory was as a Brownie Scout touring the factory in Marion to watch Klondikes being dipped into the vat of chocolate and then having one to eat at the end of the tour. I really miss the store, especially because I believe Marion was the home of the business and founder.
I grew up with Isaly’s in Sewickley, PA. My family lived only 4 doors away from the local store. What a treat it was to buy a rainbow or a maricopa skyscraper cone! My Dad loved the chocolate chip with the jimmies inside. I’ve never seen another CC like it. And my favorite lunch was, and always will be, a fresh chipped ham sandwich and a vanilla milkshake!
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…
I was an Isaly Blue Ribbon Baby when I was 2 years old and living in Marion OH. I have a newspaper clipping with my photo in it and have attached a copy of the letter to my parents. I was recently in Marion and looked for the original Isaly’s on Center Street, but couldn’t find it. I have fond memories of going to Isaly’s for ice cream.
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.
When Isaly's in Ellwood City closed, somehow my Dad was able to nab this milkshake machine. It still works! We had a cookout this evening & made milkshakes on the patio. The flavor is better than if made in a blender. Maybe it's the nostalgia I taste? The steel cup says "patent 1926".
One of my fondest memories was as a little girl my Daddy would take me to the local Isaly’s Store (Turtle Creek, Pa.) for ice cream. It always tasted so good and was the best in the area. I remember I wanted to try every flavor that there was so every time we went I got a different flavor. I don’t think I ever got to try them all because there was just so many. By far ISALY’S is the best in my book. Now when I go home to visit my family I take my children to Isaly’s for some good old fashioned ice cream.
Isaly's- what a great place for the family !There were 2 Isaly's location in my hometown of Homestead, PA. When my dad got paid, we would walk to one of the 2 Isaly's stores for a special treat. Sometimes it would be a skyscraper cone, sometimes a 25 cent milkshake or a Klondike. Once in a while we would eat lunch at one of the tables- I always got a chipped ham barbecue- still love to make my own at home these days. Prices were so cheap that one day we went to Isaly's and the price of coffee had gone from five cents to seven cents- we were not wealthy. I can still hear my mother exclaiming- " Seven cents for a lousy cup of coffee" !(The lousy of course certainly did not refer to their really good coffee.) But she continued to enjoy her favorite brew there..loved it.
I grew up in Blairsville, PA. In the 1950s when I was in my early teens my mother had a job at Isaly's. After school we would gather at Isaly's and enjoy the Klondike bars we always would get (there were no freebies from my mother, either). They were always so cool on a Summer's day. Even though I'm a modified vegetarian today, I still remember the chipped ham my mother would bring home or have us go down and buy to make those tasty sandwiches. I always enjoyed the lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise sandwiches with the chipped ham. Those are times long gone but not forgotten. - Alex H.
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!!