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 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.
My dad worked as the General Manager of the plant in Marion, Ohio along side Richard (Dick) Isaly. He originally started out working for Isaly's in Butler Penn. Than moved to Columbus and finally to Marion Ohio. I remember going past "Mother" Isaly's house on Vernon Heights Blvd in Marion and my Dad always commented on what a gracious lady she was to him. I was sad to see the Klondike sold to another company.
Starting round 1962,my dad would take me and my little sister to Isaly's after he did the grocery shopping. I would always get a chocolate skyscraper ice cream cone ,and she would get a chocolate milk shake. It was a rare and Very BIG treat for us!! We loved the skyscraper ice cream cones, but they occasionally toppled off the cone. We grew up eating Chipped Ham from Isaly’s… Thanks for the memory!!
The unforgettable part of each shopping trip to downtown New Castle, PA with my Mom and my sister Mary Ann, was how each would end: with an Isaly's ice cream soda, or root beer float, or "just" an ice cream cone (oh, chocolate marshmallow, you are so missed!), and of course, mounds of chipped ham to go. Years later, I was lucky enough to get one of the most coveted apartments in Slippery Rock during my senior year there, on Main St. above the hardware store - with Isaly's right next door. Great friends, great apartment, and Isaly's at the bottom of the stairs. It just does not get any better than that!
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.
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!
I worked at Isaly’s in Austintown, Ohio 1964. My father worked at the big Isaly’s in Youngstown, Ohio 1948. I now live in upstate NY, & I went into a hobby shop that has train models. There was a tanker with “Isaly’s” on it. I also can never spell “Isaly’s” with out saying the “I shall always love you sweetheart.” I still have my badge from Isaly’s with my name on it. I bet I could make the tallest sky scraper ice cream cone ever on earth. Good, happy memories.
Mary's MemoryOh! Isaly's has been a part of my life, for the past 79 years. I'm 85 and in my day, once you were 6 years old, especially being #10 of 11 children, you were helping with shopping, and so many other things. Of course, i remember the "Sky Scraper Ice Cream Cones, the Klondikes that if you bit into the ice cream and saw a stripe of Strawberry (Pink) Ice cream, you got a free one! We grew-up on Isaly's Chipped Ham Sandwiches, especially with the Bar-B-Q sauce. We also made what we called: "Hot Sandwiches", where in you prepared the Chipped ham, a piece of Cheese and some condiments; wrapped them in foil and heated them in the oven for few minutes and served them hot! wow, what a treat! My dear mom and her friends had a "Card Club" in their day and when it was my mom's turn to have the game at our house, she always served the ladies sandwiches of Isaly's Chipped Ham at our Christmas Party, my son made a crock pot of Isaly's Bar-B-Q Chipped ham for all of us to enjoy! Isaly's holds many wonderful memories for me! i still love Klondikes and now, I'm so hungry for some Isaly's Bar-B-Q Chipped ham!
I worked for isalys in Clairton while in High School (GO BEARS) in the early 1960's. Couldn't begin to tell you how many skyscraper ice cream cones I made, under the watchful eye of then Manager Percy Grocott. Loved the chipped ham and all the other goodies Isaly's had to offer. Although I now live in Michigan (Brrrr) my heart will always belong to the Pittsburgh area especially Clairton. You can take the boy out of the Burgh but you can never take the Burgh out of the boy.
Isaly's was the local delivery and ice cream store. There was one on Potomac Ave in Dormont Pa that I visited in the 50's. Skyscapers, Klondikes, Chopped Chipped Ham, Banana Splits were the best. Never forget this legacy store of the Burgh 🙂