Another Isaly's fades away

West View landmark to change ownership, but keep traditions

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Isaly's was once a ubiquitous part of the Tri-State landscape.

Now, the Isaly's on Perry Highway in West View is one of the last of about 400 that is still standing. But it's changing hands this month and will no longer be called Isaly's.

The new owners, however, promise to keep its menu, Isaly's products and retro look.

Current owners Thomas and Gail Weisbecker have been running restaurants in West View for 32 years. After three decades and getting up in the pre-dawn hours to open up, they've decided to retire from the business. "We'll miss the people. We won't miss the work," Mr. Weisbecker said Sunday.

They bought the Isaly's in 1998, and before that owned Sunshine & Roses, which closed in 2000. Their last day in business is Friday. The sale closing is set for next Monday, and the restaurant is scheduled to reopen June 28.

The future owners are Sue Affolder and Bobby Dominek. "We're running with the same menu and staff, everything," said Ms. Affolder, who also owns the 5 Fools Bar & Grille on Perry Highway and Around the Corner on Babcock Boulevard.

While they've decided not to pay the licensing fee required to use the Isaly's name, they've settled on one that should satisfy Isaly's purists -- I Shall Always Love You Sweetie, for which the word Isaly's would be an acronym. It's taken from an old Isaly's advertising slogan designed to make people remember the name.

Isaly's iconic art deco architecture and decor dated back to the buildings the company constructed in the 1930s. The West View Isaly's was one of the few that resembled the classic establishments many remember from the 1950s and '60's.

It is the "nearest example of what an old store was like," Brian Butko wrote in his book "Klondikes, Chipped Ham & Skyscraper Cones: The Story of Isaly's."

Walking through the door is like stepping back into the 1950s, when this restaurant first opened. Except for minor cosmetic changes, the Weisbeckers retained the original decor, with its tin ceilings and tile floor. The walls are covered with old photos of the now-gone West View Park amusement park: Some came from Mr. Weisbecker's collection and some were given to him by customers.

The restaurant also created some uniquely Pittsburgh menu items, like the Hunky Heaven Omelet, made with kielbasa and Swiss cheese, and the Slammer, a chipped ham and grilled onions sandwich that many feel ranks with Primanti's in the great sandwich pantheon. The Slammer was featured in the Rick Sebak documentary "Sandwiches That You Will Like."

The West View Isaly's is one of a handful that remain in the area. There's still one on East Ohio Street on the North Side. The Turtle Creek Isaly's is now called Turtle Creek Market, "featuring Isaly's products" -- also because of the name licensing issue. But "the locals still call it that," said owner Jeremy Hite.

For many in the region, Isaly's signature chip-chopped ham and Klondikes were a dietary staple and still evoke nostalgia. That has kept business hopping at the Isaly's in West View. It has its regulars and is a hub in the community.

Customers -- some teary-eyed -- stopped to say goodbye to the Weisbeckers on Sunday, as news of the sale leaked out. "They're the type of people that become family," said longtime customer Sue Schwab.

Correction/Clarification: (Published July 11, 2012) Tom and Gail Weisbecker were in the restaurant business in the West View area for 32 years before they sold the West View Isaly's this year. They bought the store in 1998 from Ronald and Jean Totin. A photo caption accompanying a story June 18 on the most recent sale of the Isaly's incorrectly said the Weisbeckers had owned the store for 32 years.
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Adrian McCoy: or 412-263-1865. First Published June 18, 2012 4:00 AM


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