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.
 

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 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.

Kristi Bonkowski 

I live in Mansfield, Ohio. When I was a kid in the 60s, there were several Isaly’s Stores in town. We even had an Isaly’s Dairy Plant in town. My wife’s Grandmother worked as a waitress at an Isaly’s store. I sure miss those good ham sandwiches. I liked my ham fried and served on a toasted bun with Heinz Spicy Brown Mustard.

Timothy D.Ling

I used to deliver the morning news paper when I was in high school and when I was done I would stop in isaly's down town new castle for a hot cup of coffee...

ted smith new castle pa

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 🙂

John Sun Lakes Az

In the 1930s, when I was a little girl, we lived on Storer Avenue, near Copley Road, where there was an Isaly's. Of course we all (I had 3 brothers) loved the skyscraper cone, but there was an additional lure! On our birthdays, our Mother would go to Isaly's and buy COLORED BREAD. She made sandwiches of blue, green, and pink bread for our birthday parties! How cool was that?

Fran Claggett Sebastopol, California

Back in the 60's, when I was in Junior High (we didn't call it Middle School back then), my dad and I would often go to his office downtown in the afternoon. He'd work and I'd just poke around downtown. A 14 year old kid could do that safely back then. On the ride home, we'd pass an Isaly's in Mount Lebanon, and stop for a Maricopa skyscraper to eat in the car on the way home. That was our secret. We never told my mother about it.

George Erdner Duluth, GA

On Sundays my dad would stop after church and buy a pound of Isaly’s Chipped Chopped Ham from Isaly’s. That evening he would whip up something special with it…and he always served it on toast and thought he was serving something good that night – which he was!

Cathy Jones

I am too young, but I remember my parents talk about it as if it was the greatest ice cream ever. My old man would talk about the store on the corner of Hazelwood and Mahoning on the Westside, Skyscapers, chip-chop ham, barbecue sauce, and donuts were always being referenced and brought up when talking local eateries I was a kid. Never without: "When I was your age..." coming first in the conversation.

I was employed at Isaly's from 1941 to 1971, in retail home delivery. I was sales manager, working under William Isaly. Great memories remain…

Leonard Shaw

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.

Katherine Weber Mansfield, Ohio

Share your Own Isaly’s Memory