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”

I live far away from Pittsburgh now, but when I was a little girl in the ’70′s, one of the best times of my week was going to Isaly's for a Sundae! My parents and I would go to church in Bellevue PA Sunday mornings, and then they would take me to Isaly’s afterward. As a teenager, my mother and I would go shopping to North Hills Village, and we would usually stop in to eat at the Isaly’s in the mall. Sometimes for dinner, sometimes for a sundae… I loved all the different flavors they had! And then when I babysat the little children next door, I used to take them to Isaly's for ice cream. These are all very precious memories!

Marianne Farabaugh

As a kid I remember my grandmother taking me to Pgh & McKeesport Isaly' s and my favorite was the ham barbecue sandwich . Before moving to Florida 15 years ago the Irwin store was still there ,but even though we travel to Pgh .each year it has been forgotten about, but you can bet I will be picking up a batch of Isaly's ham soon

Ed Gueth Sr ocala,Fl

My grandparents use to own the Isaly's in Irwin PA and I have so many good memories of making the donuts and selling all the good products.

Melissa Lewis

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.

Billy Alderson Midland, Michigan

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

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.

Kevin New Kensington PA

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.

Green 382 Marion, Ohio

When I was a little boy I would stop on my way home from school and get a scoop of ice cream .. Or get a 1/2 a pound chip ham and eat it on my way home !! I miss it and I miss Pittsburgh

Victor piotrowski Livermore California

I grew up in Beaver Falls, PA and going downtown to Isaly’s was quite the treat for my sisters and I. Mom and dad would pile us in the car, pick up my grandma and aunt, and away we would go. I remember hot fudge sundaes, and banana splits. We wouldn’t leave without getting a pound of chipped ham to take home. My mom was originally from Jeannette, PA and when we would go back to visit her family we would stop at the shop there! What memories!

Terri Lynn Noss-Hagen

I’m 57 years old but still have the fondest memories of stopping by Isaly’s in Marion, Ohio, to get a nickel cone. The family favorite was rainbow ice cream…NOT sherbet, but ice cream! No one can duplicate it or ever will. And, yes, the chipped ham was to die for! Another memory was as a Brownie Scout touring the factory in Marion to watch Klondikes being dipped into the vat of chocolate and then having one to eat at the end of the tour. I really miss the store, especially because I believe Marion was the home of the business and founder.

Laura Marshall

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