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.

Click here to view historical Isaly’s clips from WQED, voiced by Rick Sebak.


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”

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

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!

Mandi Detroit Michigan

When I was a grade schooler us boys would ride our bikes to Isaly’s, about a mile or so from our houses, for the Ice Cream. You could buy a Klondike and there might be a coupon in it for a free one. My family would buy the chipped ham, and it was a treat for us.

Stephen Ecsedy 

When Isaly's in Ellwood City closed, somehow my Dad was able to nab this milkshake machine. It still works! We had a cookout this evening & made milkshakes on the patio. The flavor is better than if made in a blender. Maybe it's the nostalgia I taste? The steel cup says "patent 1926".

Don Mohr North Tonawanda, NY

My father used to take me to the Isaly’s store in German Village, Columbus, OH. We always had the same lunch, a ham sandwich and a vanilla phosphate drink. Whenever I now eat Isaly’s chipped chopped ham, it brings back that wonderful memory of my father and me having lunch together. 

Kristi Bonkowski

I now live in Independence, LA, and every time I come to Pittsburgh to visit my family, I either bring a small ice chest, or buy one…and load up on chipped ham and sauce. My daughter and I look forward to it every time we come to PA. 

Robin Drago

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

I worked at Isaly's in Jeannette when I was a senior in High School. The hardest job was learning how to scoop the sky scraper ice cream and place it on top of the cone so it did not fall of. My favorite meal was a chipped ham and Swiss cheese sandwich with a strawberry shake. On my last day of work before leaving for college, I cut off the tip of my finger on the slicer. (:

Tim Farabaugh Jeannette, pa

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.

Jim Morrison Burlingame, California

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.

Fred G. Baur

Share your Own Isaly’s Memory