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 was a student at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania in the mid-1960's. The town had an Isaly's, and my friend Neil and I would go there regularly for the chipped ham sandwiches and especially the ice cream. As I recall they had a special scoop for their ice cream cones and there was some sort of guarantee that the ice cream wouldn't fall out of the cone. They also made corned beef sandwiches out of canned corned beef, and because I as a New Jersey native was raised on delicatessen corned beef I savored these as the closest I could get to what I had at home.
We lived near the Isaly’s in Bethel Park, PA. My mom, step-brother and myself would go in on a Saturday and wait in a long line for chipped ham and all the other foods Isaly’s sold that was so good. I think we got a pink free klondike once. As we rounded the bend waiting to get to the counter my eyes got so big looking at all the goodies on the shelves. Also, my Mom and I would go down to Isaly’s get our Skyscraper ice cream cones and park the car in the parking lot and watch the South Park drive-in movie. My grandparents and I would go in when I was little, sit at the tables, and eat our ice cream. My grandma would get rainbow and I know I would almost always get chocolate chip, my favorite.
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!
I liked the ice cold buttermilk in cone contaners
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.
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.
As a High School Junior/senior I worked evenings and on weekends at the Youngstown, Ohio Market Street/ Indianola store. My manager was Wesley Rarer and a better mentor I could never have had. He instilled good work habits, promoting one's better traits and enhancing a personality of a retailer wanting to help and satisfy the customer's wants. This lesson of meeting the public and providing a good, desirable service was never forgotten by me as a 15/16 year old boy who was working towards making his way in life. I stayed at this job/store until I graduated from Youngstown South High School in 1951 and later went on to spend 20 years in the USAF and another 20 years working with the US Army and I continuously applied the fundamentals of life and work place habits which Wesley Rarer had taught me. Wesley is long gone and I am 81 years old but I still remember the Isaly's environment which groomed my onward positive habits which have helped me and my family thru the years.
Grew up behind the store in Marion Ohio. The best of times going to get ice cream and watching the ice cream being made in the factory. Angelo Dorian was the greatest manager of the plant a great man who loved making ice cream and running the restaurant.
Growing up on the Southside of Youngstown Ohio, I remember the chip chopped ham it was amazing. I live in NC now and down here they have nothing like it.
I used to live in West View. Isaly's was part of everyone's lives and definitely serves as a time capsule of sorts to my life. My sister was partial to Maricopa! I always make it a point to swing by on my visits home to stock up on ham salad, chopped ham and Mancini's bread. I love the retro feel. So home!