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”
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.
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.
My most vivid memory of Isaly's was when I was eleven or twelve and I was given money to go get a pound of chipped ham. Mind you I lived in the projects in New Kensington and it was a very dangerous neighborhood. I was chased by three or four of the neighborhood boys for the money I had, I ran as fast as I could down to 5th avenue and ran into an Isaly's and asked for help I was being robbed. The counter clerk stood in front of the door and waited for them to come in and try to rob me. They did not, he stood there until they left. He gave me an ice cream and told me to wait a while until things settled down. I waited a half hour and purchased the chipped ham and a loaf of bread. I thanked the gentleman and headed home. Wouldn't you know that they were waiting around the corner for me and beat the living daylights out of me and took the food and left me lying there. Needless to say when I came home empty handed, I also got the crap beat out of me.Didn't eat that night and had a broken nose and some ribs and punished for letting them rob me.Good times in good old New Kensington.
When I was a child about 6 years old,1950, I met Mrs. Isaly. I lived in Youngstown, Ohio and my Uncle was in charge of maintenance at the Isaly factory. My dad and I went through the factory and they had a machine that made Klondike ice cream bars. At that time Klondike bars were chocolate covered ice cream with a wooden stick in them. I now noticed that all Klondike bars consist of chocolate covered ice cream without the stick. Do the stick versions still exist?
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?
I lived on Fifth Ave in Oakland we would go to the park or Panther Hollow and on way we would stop and get chipped ham sandwich and little cartons of milk. On way home we got skyscraper ice comes. Best chipped ham ever and when I come to pittsburgh I always get some. Some of the best days ever.
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.
Mary's MemoryOh! Isaly's has been a part of my life, for the past 79 years. I'm 85 and in my day, once you were 6 years old, especially being #10 of 11 children, you were helping with shopping, and so many other things. Of course, i remember the "Sky Scraper Ice Cream Cones, the Klondikes that if you bit into the ice cream and saw a stripe of Strawberry (Pink) Ice cream, you got a free one! We grew-up on Isaly's Chipped Ham Sandwiches, especially with the Bar-B-Q sauce. We also made what we called: "Hot Sandwiches", where in you prepared the Chipped ham, a piece of Cheese and some condiments; wrapped them in foil and heated them in the oven for few minutes and served them hot! wow, what a treat! My dear mom and her friends had a "Card Club" in their day and when it was my mom's turn to have the game at our house, she always served the ladies sandwiches of Isaly's Chipped Ham at our Christmas Party, my son made a crock pot of Isaly's Bar-B-Q Chipped ham for all of us to enjoy! Isaly's holds many wonderful memories for me! i still love Klondikes and now, I'm so hungry for some Isaly's Bar-B-Q Chipped ham!
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.
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...