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 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 grew up overseas in my childhood years because my dad was a US Diplomat but when he would be on furlough, our family of 9 (7 kids and my mom and dad) would fly up to my dad's hometown of Apollo, PA to visit granny and grandad but first stop always was Isaly's! To this day, my memories of going to Vandergrift, to get my rainbow ice cream and hearing us all shout out our flavors is so exciting! This Thursday, my 90 yr. Old Daddy and I are going to PA for him to see old friends and family and his health is not great but what is he asking about? Isaly's!

Debra Gallagher Betolatti Lilburn,GA

My Aunt and Uncle owned an Isaly Dairy Store in Bessemer, Pa. I would stop in after school for my favorite sky scraper ice cream cone. I still have some of my Aunt's aprons, dishes, and the sky scraper ice cream scoop, from the store. Great memories!!!!

KATHERINE SHULLACK MICCO Valparaiso, In.

I live far away from Pittsburgh now, but when I was a little girl in the ’70′s, one of the best times of my week was going to Isaly's for a Sundae! My parents and I would go to church in Bellevue PA Sunday mornings, and then they would take me to Isaly’s afterward. As a teenager, my mother and I would go shopping to North Hills Village, and we would usually stop in to eat at the Isaly’s in the mall. Sometimes for dinner, sometimes for a sundae… I loved all the different flavors they had! And then when I babysat the little children next door, I used to take them to Isaly's for ice cream. These are all very precious memories!

Marianne Farabaugh

I worked at the Isaly's Store on Lincoln Way Avenue in White Oak, Pa. in 1964 It was a hard job for a 13-year-old school boy but I sure enjoyed the fringe benefits of Klondikes and the best ice cream. I have lived in The Great State of Texas since 1978 and I occasionally buy chipped ham from the local grocery store - but it is no comparison to the delicious chipped ham I used to slice for customers. (Of course most all foods were better and more healthy "back in the day"!) Great memories!

Keith R. Phillips Houston, Texas

I grew up in Monongahela, PA and remember going just about everyday as a child to Isaly’s. Either for the Klondikes, Chipped ham or those amazing deviled crabs. When I misbehaved it was my trip to Isaly’s that was taken away from me..as you can imagine I didn’t misbehave too much. I now own a hot dog cart in Arizona and whenever I make a trip back to the “burgh” I always bring several pounds of the chipped ham. Until it”s gone I serve an amazing “sammich” for all the Pittsburghers that live out here. I have a great all beef hot dog and then top with a heap of juicy warm Isaly’s chipped ham and some fresh grated Asiago cheese. The “burghers” LOVE IT! And for the moment they are reminded of their childhood back in the Steel city. Thanks Isaly’s for keeping those memories alive. 

Randy Walters

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

Is this a real scene, and if so, where was it? I have been unable to find the identity of the original artist. I'm wondering if this is a real scene, or if it was created by the artist as a typical Christmas city-scape.

michael schwartz Morristown, NJ

I grew up in Ashtabula, Ohio that had an Isalys store. We used to get ice cream cones there but mostly we would get the best tasting chipped chopped ham ever. Until one winter there was a huge fire and it burned down. No more Isalys and the community lost a favorite landmark. Years later we all grew up and moved away. We later found out another store in Ashtabula called Albinos was selling the ham. When we returned to visit Mom in a nursing home we would go to that store to buy pounds of the chipped ham to take back to our local state where we live. Then, for some reason I googled where you could buy the ham and found out it couldn be bought in Maryland where my brother lives so on a visit to him lately, I stopped at a local Wal-Mart and purchased a few pounds and surprised my brother with it. He was real excited to know he didn't have to go to Ashtabula just to buy the ham as Mom has recently passed away.

Gayle Whiting Jackson, Michigan

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…

Leonard Shaw

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