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 suspect I bought a zillion Klondike ice cream bars looking for one with a pink center, which netted you one free one. They were very good.

Ray Harruff

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

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.

Alex H

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

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

Until I moved away from Washington, Pa. I had Islay’s Chipped Ham everyday. I ate it my entire life growing up. It wasn’t til I moved around the country that I figured out not all Chipped ham was the same!! Let alone no one else knows how to “shave” it like you!! My father still lives in Washington and every 6 months we either go up to visit or he comes down. There are only 2 things I want him to bring. 1) 5 lbs of Islay’s chipped hamand2) Sarris’ Chocolate from Cannonsburg I have to now fight of my husband and oldest child (12) to try to make the 5 lbs last past a week and a half!!My youngest (2) is like me, she loves it fried up and either as a sandwich or with scrambled eggs!!Oh HOW I MISS ISALY’S!!! Thank You for being a part of all my childhood memories!! At all family gatherings, birthdays, picnics, holidays and of course, SUPER BOWL there was ALWAYS a crock-pot full of Isaly’s BBQ chipped ham!! Come to think of it since leaving Pa. I don’t eat many cold cut sandwiches.You ARE the BEST!!! 

April Gillespie

For a few years in the 1960s, I was a teen who worked after school at an Isaly's store in Akron, Ohio. With dried ice cream up to my elbows, I dug down deep into the ice cream bins to produce the 'skyscraper' cones for customers of all ages. If the cooking staff was extra busy, I made cheeseburgers on the hot huge grill located in the very front area of the store. I remember so well that it was hard work, that being on time for my shift was important and that the managers were the kindest people and the customers were the friendliest! However, I either never learned or didn't pay attention to the fact that it was family Isaly that founded the store. We young, naïve teens who were told this: Isaly's was an acronym for ' I shall always love you sweetheart.' These many decades later I find no mention of this....and I was crushed. But no matter, I will always love my very first job experiences at my neighborhood Isaly's store. Since then, with hard work, I became a senior exec at a non-profit association in Washington, DC. I still have a bowl of ice cream almost every day!

Barbara K. Reck Washington, DC

This is my Isaly Dairy on our Community Train Display-Our annual new years eve tradition is a crock pot full of Isaly's BBQ Chip Chopped Ham & Sauce. We introduced all of our friends to it!

Roger Peterson north bloomfield Ohio

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 in Youngstown, Ohio with fond memories of the big Isaly's Dairy Plant on Mahoning Ave. My Dad's favorite flavor of ice cream was "White House" ~ creamy vanilla ice cream loaded with maraschino cherries ! My family loved 'chipped chopped ham' sandwiches ! I live in Sarasota, FL now and no one at any deli counter knows what that is !! It got its name from how they used to shave and cross cut the ham in a certain way. It's chipped, then chopped. Yum ! Great memories !!

JoAnn Pillifant Sarasota, FL

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