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”
Growing up I ate at Isaly's many times. My mother worked very close and my sister and I went to school just a block away. At least once a week we got to meet her for lunch. At 16 I got what I consider the world's best job there. I was a stock boy and I cleaned up. Mostly it was evenings and an occasional Saturday or Sunday during the day. What made it so great was #1......I worked with 8 of the prettiest girls I went to school with. #2.....At 7 PM we cleaned up the cafeteria and took all the food to the kitchen to be put away in the cooler for the night and to clean the pans and containers. We always made a big plate for ourselves for our break. #3 Just before 10 (Closing time) one of the girls would make milkshakes or sundae's for when we left. #4 Mr. Cunningham the owner was one of the nicest employers I ever had. If I had to work a Saturday or Sunday it was rough at times, especially if the Chipped or Baked ham was on sale. Thinking back it may of been 50 cents a lb. Well I'd operate the slicer for what seemed eternity chipping ham. My right arm would be numb before noon. The baked ham had to be sliced when the customer ordered it since no two ever wanted the same thickness. I now live in south Fla and I wonder what TSA thinks every time I come back from Pittsburgh since I generally have 1/2 a dozen jars of BBQ sauce and a cooler with chipped ham. Yes I can get a close copy of the chipped chopped ham here but it's not the exact same. PLUS explain to someone at a deli the thickness of CHIPPED as they don't quite grasp the concept. I am really surprised that no one has opted to franchise Isaly's out as it would be a good addition to all the food establishment options we have today.
Almost every Saturday my Aunt Ann and I would ride the bus to downtown Pittsburgh to shop in “town”. On our way home we would always get off the bus near the Bloomfield Isaly’s. We ended our shopping days with chocolate milkshakes and cheese crackers. How I loved those trips and looked forward to that milkshake!
In the 1950′s we lived in Franklin, Penna. Our family had 8 girls and 2 boys. As with large families, the oldest girls took care of us young ones. A special treat was to be taken to Isaly’s for a five cent “skyscraper.” My favorite was White House.
I was an Isaly Blue Ribbon Baby when I was 2 years old and living in Marion OH. I have a newspaper clipping with my photo in it and have attached a copy of the letter to my parents. I was recently in Marion and looked for the original Isaly’s on Center Street, but couldn’t find it. I have fond memories of going to Isaly’s for ice cream.
My Aunt and Uncle owned an Isaly Dairy Store in Bessemer, Pa. I would stop in after school for my favorite sky scraper ice cream cone. I still have some of my Aunt's aprons, dishes, and the sky scraper ice cream scoop, from the store. Great memories!!!!
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 was employed at Isaly's from 1941 to 1971, in retail home delivery. I was sales manager, working under William Isaly. Great memories remain…
I remember growing up as a kid..my grandparents lived in Charleroi, Pa. There was an Isaly”s store in downtown Charleroi that my grandmother would take me to for Ice cream. It was a special time shared with her. We would bring chipped ham home to make sandwiches, it was the best chipped ham ever. I have not found any that compares. Thanks for the fond childhood memories!
I worked at the Isaly's in Washington Pennsylvania 5 or 6 years. Great company to work for. The skyscraper ice cream cones were hard to make at the beginning but once you learned the tricks they were easy to make. One of my customers was the singer Perry Como, from nearby Cannonsburg. My favorite ice cream to this day maricopa. We now live in Florida and when we go back load up on the bar b que sauce to make our favorite Isaly's Bar B Que sandwiches.
I liked the ice cold buttermilk in cone contaners