Running a family-owned bakery experiencing incredible demand requires a lot of work, not the typical 40-hour work week. Lou Rotella Jr., president and chief executive officer of Rotella’s Italian Bakery, La Vista, Neb., recalled working 90- to 100-hour work weeks and always having to be the one on call in case someone didn’t show up for the overnight shift. It takes a special kind of person to marry into such a family business. 

“It’s not easy because they end up raising the kids and doing everything at home because we’re working all the time,” said Dean Jacobsen Sr., comptroller of Rotella’s Italian Bakery, who is married to Lou Rotella Jr.’s sister, Maria. “My wife grew up in it, so she knew what the life was.”

Lou Rotella Jr. attributed the bakery’s success not only to his father but the support his mother provided as well. 

“She used to put tape on the doorbell and cover the phone up with pillows so they wouldn’t wake my dad up,” he said. “She did everything for me and my sister, Maria.”

He credits his own wife, Kathy, with raising their three children — Lou III, John and Joe—and being supportive of his hard work. 

Lou Rotella III, chief operating officer, is quick to point out that while the bakery business may not be kind to work-life balance, his dad always made it a point to support his children in their activities growing up. Even if he was in Des Moines, Iowa, for business, Lou Jr. would take the bus home to watch his sons’ baseball and soccer games. 

“And then he would take the bus back to Des Moines, sleeping on the bus so he could see our games,” he said. “That’s how dedicated he was to us as a father while he was also dedicated 100% to the business.”

This article is an excerpt from the February 2023 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on Rotella's Italian Bakery, click here.