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”

My Dad was employed by Isaly's, starting in the early days with the horses. I grew up on Isaly milk and you cannot get that good tasting milk today in Atlanta. What a treat it was to go to Isaly’s in Youngstown for lunch and a skyscraper ice cream cone plus visit with my Dad, plus a very special Aunt and Uncle who were also employed there. We still bring back chipped chopped ham when we go back to Youngstown for a visit. HMMMMMM HMMMMM GOOD! Yes, I certainly have many fond memories.

Diana Balas, Fayetteville, GA

I grew up in Monongahela, PA and remember going just about everyday as a child to Isaly’s. Either for the Klondikes, Chipped ham or those amazing deviled crabs. When I misbehaved it was my trip to Isaly’s that was taken away from me..as you can imagine I didn’t misbehave too much. I now own a hot dog cart in Arizona and whenever I make a trip back to the “burgh” I always bring several pounds of the chipped ham. Until it”s gone I serve an amazing “sammich” for all the Pittsburghers that live out here. I have a great all beef hot dog and then top with a heap of juicy warm Isaly’s chipped ham and some fresh grated Asiago cheese. The “burghers” LOVE IT! And for the moment they are reminded of their childhood back in the Steel city. Thanks Isaly’s for keeping those memories alive. 

Randy Walters

When I was a kid, after shopping in Jeannette, Pa., and before boarding the bus, mother & I would stop in Isaly's to buy an ice cream cone with a big long scoop of lime ice cream and a pack of black licorice, those were my favorite. And of coarse a pound of that out of this world chipped chopped ham to take home. Here out west no deli ever heard of chipped ham, you have to stand there and explain how thin to cut it--rarely you can find chopped ham. Thanks Isaly's for the wonderful and unforgettable memories. - Shirley H in Roseburg, Oregon

Shirley H in Roseburg, Oregon

One of my fondest memories was as a little girl my Daddy would take me to the local Isaly’s Store (Turtle Creek, Pa.) for ice cream. It always tasted so good and was the best in the area. I remember I wanted to try every flavor that there was so every time we went I got a different flavor. I don’t think I ever got to try them all because there was just so many. By far ISALY’S is the best in my book. Now when I go home to visit my family I take my children to Isaly’s for some good old fashioned ice cream.

Beth Wheeler

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

My mother worked at the lunch counter at the main Isaly's in the late 30's. It was here that she met my father. Are there pictures posted during this time frame? By the way, the Klondikes were my favorite.

Ernie Reid Granville, OH

I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio with fond memories of the big Isaly's Dairy Plant on Mahoning Ave. My Dad's favorite flavor of ice cream was "White House" ~ creamy vanilla ice cream loaded with maraschino cherries ! My family loved 'chipped chopped ham' sandwiches ! I live in Sarasota, FL now and no one at any deli counter knows what that is !! It got its name from how they used to shave and cross cut the ham in a certain way. It's chipped, then chopped. Yum ! Great memories !!

JoAnn Pillifant Sarasota, FL

I grew up in Dormont. Isaly’s was my very first job. I was hired when I was 16 and worked for about 7 years. All the locals hung out there and just talked for hours. It was like being at a family reunion only everyday. All of my co-workers and managers were good friends which is why it was probably the best job I’ve ever had. I recently went back to work in Dormont and now the people who come into my place of employment still remember me when I worked at Isaly’s. I still see and hear from some of my old co-workers and that is very special to me.  

Debbie Cherosky 

When I lived in Turtle Creek, I went to the Isaly's every Saturday one summer with my best friend. We'd go thrift shopping at one of the local churches then get a ice cream and a Jones.

Rikki White Monroeville PA

Growing up in Canton, Ohio in the 50′s and early 60′s it was always a treat to go to Isaly’s for ice cream cones. My sister Cindy always ordered maricopa (I think that’s the flavor) and I thought that sounded so exotic. Our family moved to Maryland in the mid 60′s and that ended our trips to Isaly’s, but for some mysterious reason (our parent’s won’t reveal it) that is their secret code word to each other whenever they are going somewhere without the other. They are in their early 80′s now and I don’t think they will ever reveal to us what the word Isaly’s means to them. We find it kind fascinating!

Tracy Lawrence

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