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.
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.
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.
Oh, what memories! I grew up in Clairton, PA in the 50′s and my first job was at the Isaly’s downtown. I don’t get back up north very often now, but my sister from Montreal comes through Pittsburgh on the way to Hendersonville. The last time early this month I had her bring me 5 pounds of the chipped chopped ham. She got a strange look from the deli person and had to explain. This supply of ham was to share with friends who never heard of it, but, most of it went to family over the next week or so.Sure do miss you guys down here!!
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.
I remember your grandfather..tall fella..My Grandmother Ruth Whalen worked in the bakery I think 1 day a week. My mother took me and my 5 brothers and sisters in for a coke after shopping! My mother was Patricia Whalen from North Irwin...found memories!
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.
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.
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 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!