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’m 57 years old but still have the fondest memories of stopping by Isaly’s in Marion, Ohio, to get a nickel cone. The family favorite was rainbow ice cream…NOT sherbet, but ice cream! No one can duplicate it or ever will. And, yes, the chipped ham was to die for! Another memory was as a Brownie Scout touring the factory in Marion to watch Klondikes being dipped into the vat of chocolate and then having one to eat at the end of the tour. I really miss the store, especially because I believe Marion was the home of the business and founder.
In pre-WW2 days, Isaly’s was the place to go for chipped pressed ham and for their large ice cream cones, after movies and shopping in East Liberty. But above all, I remember the Squirrel Hill store at Forbes and Murray, immediately above which was one of the locations in the Thirties of The Gene Kelly Dance Studio. My sister and I had weekly lessons there and before taking the #60 street car back to East Liberty, we always bought a Klondike and immediately looked to see if ours had a strawberry center which would get us a coupon for a free Klondkie on our next visit. For a while, Gene had us perform at local theaters on Saturday mornings and we were called Gene Kelly’s Brother and Sister Team.
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.
I grew up in Mansfield, Ohio where we had a couple of Isaly's stores. In the 60's we had a store on W. 4th St. and a store and cheese making plant on Franklin Ave. My dad's favorite past time was going for rides in the car and stopping to get ice cream. We spent a lot of time at Isaly's, and I have some wonderful family past time memories and of the best ice cream and milk shakes in town. I also remember a field trip our East Mansfield Elementary School class took to Isaly's to see how cheese was made. These memories are priceless and whenever I see old glassware (milk jugs) from long ago, I always check for the name "Isaly's" on it.
One of my fondest memories was as a little girl my Daddy would take me to the local Isaly’s Store (Turtle Creek, Pa.) for ice cream. It always tasted so good and was the best in the area. I remember I wanted to try every flavor that there was so every time we went I got a different flavor. I don’t think I ever got to try them all because there was just so many. By far ISALY’S is the best in my book. Now when I go home to visit my family I take my children to Isaly’s for some good old fashioned ice cream.
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!
I LOVE ISALY’S!! It brings back such wonderful memories of my dad and me going to German Village in Columbus, OH and going to the Isaly’s store. My favorite was ice cream and and vanilla phosphate drink. It was a special treat.
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.
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.
My grandparents use to own the Isaly's in Irwin PA and I have so many good memories of making the donuts and selling all the good products.