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”

It was the summer of 1966. I was 16 years old and had my first job working at Isaly's on East Ohio Street in the north side of Pittsburgh. My wage was eighty-five cents an hour less fifteen cents an hour for the uniform. I hoped to be making milkshakes and scooping out skyscraper ice cream cones, but I only cleaned the coolers and mopped the floors. However, I was proud to say "I worked at Isaly's." - Joseph DeRiso Jr.

My family always had Isaly's at reunions!

Tim Bickerton Beaver, PA

Every Friday my mother ordered breaded haddock from the Irwin Isaly's which was owned and operated by Art Lewis. It was the best tasting breaded fish we have ever eaten and to this day I can still remember the delicious taste.

DARLENE HURTIG Cockeysville, Md

When I was a little girl, my grandparents lived in Englewood, PA. While visiting them from Wisconsin, I fell down a big hill in the back of their house and my grandmother gave me some Isaly’s chipped ham to lessen my tears and ease my pain! From that point forward, I was hooked. If I would get sick, my mom would always say, “How about a ham sandwich, Kay Ann?” She knew I was feeling better when I would eagerly say, “Yes, please!” 

Kay Wightman

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.

Cindy Burdge Aloise

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.

Lonnie Angier NC

Until I moved away from Washington, Pa. I had Islay’s Chipped Ham everyday. I ate it my entire life growing up. It wasn’t til I moved around the country that I figured out not all Chipped ham was the same!! Let alone no one else knows how to “shave” it like you!! My father still lives in Washington and every 6 months we either go up to visit or he comes down. There are only 2 things I want him to bring. 1) 5 lbs of Islay’s chipped hamand2) Sarris’ Chocolate from Cannonsburg I have to now fight of my husband and oldest child (12) to try to make the 5 lbs last past a week and a half!!My youngest (2) is like me, she loves it fried up and either as a sandwich or with scrambled eggs!!Oh HOW I MISS ISALY’S!!! Thank You for being a part of all my childhood memories!! At all family gatherings, birthdays, picnics, holidays and of course, SUPER BOWL there was ALWAYS a crock-pot full of Isaly’s BBQ chipped ham!! Come to think of it since leaving Pa. I don’t eat many cold cut sandwiches.You ARE the BEST!!! 

April Gillespie

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 

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 was a student at Grove City College in Grove City, Pennsylvania in the mid-1960's. The town had an Isaly's, and my friend Neil and I would go there regularly for the chipped ham sandwiches and especially the ice cream. As I recall they had a special scoop for their ice cream cones and there was some sort of guarantee that the ice cream wouldn't fall out of the cone. They also made corned beef sandwiches out of canned corned beef, and because I as a New Jersey native was raised on delicatessen corned beef I savored these as the closest I could get to what I had at home.

AH Roberts Harwich Port Ma

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