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. 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. Did you “Remember Isaly’s” when you shopped this week?

  • 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 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

My father used to take me to the Isaly’s store in German Village, Columbus, OH. We always had the same lunch, a ham sandwich and a vanilla phosphate drink. Whenever I now eat Isaly’s chipped chopped ham, it brings back that wonderful memory of my father and me having lunch together. 

Kristi Bonkowski

I liked the ice cold buttermilk in cone contaners

byron huntington sebring ohio

Isaly's chipped ham is like the best childhood memories between 2 slices of bread!

Erik Jones McKees Rocks, PA

When I was a child about 6 years old,1950, I met Mrs. Isaly. I lived in Youngstown, Ohio and my Uncle was in charge of maintenance at the Isaly factory. My dad and I went through the factory and they had a machine that made Klondike ice cream bars. At that time Klondike bars were chocolate covered ice cream with a wooden stick in them. I now noticed that all Klondike bars consist of chocolate covered ice cream without the stick. Do the stick versions still exist?

Walter E Meyer Leonard, MI

Almost every Saturday my Aunt Ann and I would ride the bus to downtown Pittsburgh to shop in “town”. On our way home we would always get off the bus near the Bloomfield Isaly’s. We ended our shopping days with chocolate milkshakes and cheese crackers. How I loved those trips and looked forward to that milkshake! 

Kathy McClory Foster

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.

Cindy Burdge Aloise

My family and I love the Isaly’s chipped ham. I was originally from Pittsburgh and moved to Sarasota when I was three. Over many visits to the South Hills area to see my family I realized there was something special about the ham. I loved it!!!!! I asked my grandma what was different about the ham, and she explained to me the Isaly’s story. Going forward in life my two son’s have also grown to love the ham and it is the first thing we look for on our vacation. We always bring a cooler of ham back with us to Florida and let everyone we know savor the flavor of ham barbeque!!!! 

Tara Nissen

I worked for 2 Isaly’s stores in the late 40s, after returning from Europe. Marysville and Columbus, on the east side. Still have pleasant memories of life then. 

Bob Caldwell

Butterscotch Ripple ice cream was always my favorite at Isaly's as well as their baked steak dinner.

Jerry Sanborn Lancaster, Ohio

Share your Own Isaly’s Memory