LA VISTA, Neb (KMTV) — This year, one of the metro's largest bread companies turns 100.
Rotella's Italian Bakery has survived two pandemics and the Great Depression, and now bakes 400 different kinds of bread.
In Thursday morning's Shop The Heartland, 3 News Now Anchor Serese Cole took us behind the scenes to learn the secret to their success over the last century.
From the outside, it's hard to miss the signs.
Inside Rotella's, it's all about the smells. Fresh bread is always baking.
"It's busy all the time," said President and CEO Louie Rotella, Jr.
This is more than a bread business. It's a family business.
"My grandfather started the bakery in 1921," Louie Jr. shared.
When his grandfather died, his dad, Louie Rotella Sr., took over.
"I used to love to go to work with my dad," he recalled.
Back then, Louie Jr. played in the dough at the family bakery. Now, he's in charge of raking in the dough.
He runs the place.
From start to finish, our cameras were rolling as he showed us how their delicious bread is made.
Hundreds of pounds of dough have to be cut up into pieces and lined up. The entire process is under the watchful eye of workers.
The bread then makes its way into what's called a proof box. From there, the buns go through a massive oven and are cooled and eventually packaged.
Like its bread line, Rotella's keeps expanding.
"We started out with five acres and one oven and now we're on 40 acres," Louie Jr. reflected.
Now they have seven ovens plus a gluten-free plant.
There's not really one.
Louie Jr. said it's all about quality ingredients, hard work, and a family-like atmosphere.
Workers like Bill Orepeza have been with the company for more than 40 years.
"We only had 60 employees at the time," Rotella said.
Now they have about 400.
There have been a lot of changes over time.
"We were able to make bread just like a loaf at a time with a machine," he said.
And sell it locally.
Now, Rotella's makes bread for some of the largest restaurant chains in the country.
"We do Arby's across the United States, we do Popeye's, at the time it was Perkins, Village Inn, IHOP," he said.
That's a lot of bread.
"We do close to 4 million pounds a week," Louie Jr. added.
"All we did was work really hard and then always try to get better and try to do different things and just little by little it grew," he said.
Soon the torch will be passed to the next generation of Rotella's, including his son Louis Rotella lll.
"It looks like the next generation is really starting to take over. I'm really proud of how well they're doing and they've earned their spot," he said proudly.
Another generation born and bred (pun intended) in the business.
After 100 years, Louie Rotella Jr. said the sandwich bread, Vienna sliced bread and Steakhouse Twist are among the customer favorites.
Whether it's their rolls, hoagies or specialty bread, you can see their entire line online at www.rotellasbakery.com.
Or you can visit their retail shop at 6949 South 108th Street in La Vista.