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”

Our family always enjoyed a trip to Isaly's for a ice cream cone or bringing some hand packed ice cream home while living in the South Hills area of Pittsburgh. After a shopping trip with my grandparents, we always stopped at Isalys on Main Street in Butler. We loved the chip chopped ham. I didn't realize that the Klondike bars we buy in upstate New York were made by Isalys until recently. A few years ago when visiting Butler, it looked like the Main Street store was long gone. We had a great dinner at Natilis Italian restaurant that has been family run for years.

Deb Boyer Cieslak Schenectady, New York

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

Loved the tall cones, but when i could get a hot fudge suday with marshmallow and caramel was the best thing I ever ate..loved the klondikes also.. lived near the Blvd of the Allies plant.. I am 81 and still have fond memories my sister would babysit for neighbors and send me store for treats . What fine fun

mervyn serbin Coral Gables dl

Hi, I am 64 years old now and remember going to Charleroi, Pa to visit grandma and grandpa and always got a trip to Isaly's Ice Cream parlor. Loved your ice cream. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa. but my parents moved to Michigan in 1963. I look every time we go back and visit but can't find any near Vandergrift where relatives live now. Just wanted to tell you loved your ice cream and chipped ham sandwiches, No one in Michigan knew what chipped ham was when we moved here. thank you for the memory Debi Devine

Debi (Horton) Devine

When I was a kid, after shopping in Jeannette, Pa., and before boarding the bus, mother & I would stop in Isaly's to buy an ice cream cone with a big long scoop of lime ice cream and a pack of black licorice, those were my favorite. And of coarse a pound of that out of this world chipped chopped ham to take home. Here out west no deli ever heard of chipped ham, you have to stand there and explain how thin to cut it--rarely you can find chopped ham. Thanks Isaly's for the wonderful and unforgettable memories. - Shirley H in Roseburg, Oregon

Shirley H in Roseburg, Oregon

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

When I was a little boy my grandparents lived on Welsford Street in Oakland, PA. I have fond memories of my grandfather and I walking to the Isaly’s on the Boulevard of the Allies for a huge ice cream cone. We would then walk across the street to a small park and sit on the park bench where granddad would enjoy his pipe while I savored my ice cream cone. 

Manny Romanias

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

My parents, Bill and Mary Francis, owned the Isaly's Store in Minerva, Ohio. We grew up working the soda fountain and having all those ice creams, chip-chopped, Klondikes at our fingertips. My whole family was a part of the business and we learned a lot from our parents. We learned to work hard, be a member of the community and strive to be the best.

Cindy Francis Dallas, Texas

Happiness is....Your ice cream and chipped ham 🙂 Growing up in the Burgh we so enjoyed getting the Isaly's skyscraper cones. Mom would surprise us by getting the Chipped Ham for dinner. When we get back "home" I always buy about 10 pounds of the Chipped Ham. I keep it frozen to make it back to Montana. We miss having the skyscraper cones but we did sit with cousins and enjoyed the ice cream in the store. It brought back lots of wonderful memories.

Virginia ( O'Leary ) Ketterling Billings, Montana

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