For nearly a year, Joe Ricketts has been selling loaves of bread to help fund his multimillion-dollar religious retreat near the Platte River.
The future of the bread is now in question after a series of racist emails tied to the TD Ameritrade founder came to light this week.
The bread, made by Rotella’s Italian Bakery in La Vista, hit shelves in early 2018 to help pay operating costs at The Cloisters on the Platte, a 931-acre retreat center off Nebraska Highway 31 and Fishery Road south of Gretna that opened last July.
Jim Rotella, vice president of sales for the bakery, said in an email that Rotella’s “takes great pride in the diversity of our workforce and customer base.”
“We believe everyone matters and value our role in helping feed and strengthen families and communities. In light of this week’s news, we are re-evaluating the future of the bread we make to benefit The Cloisters on the Platte retreat center,” Rotella wrote in response to questions from The World-Herald.
A spokeswoman for Ricketts did not respond to multiple messages from the newspaper on Thursday.
A message to The Cloisters on the Platte also was not returned.
The loaves have been sold at area grocery stores including Hy-Vee. Tina Potthoff, a Hy-Vee spokeswoman, said company executives are aware of the emails and are “looking into” the matter.
She said some Omaha Hy-Vee stores currently carry the bread. Other local stores also have carried the bread.
Ricketts has declined to provide the total price tag of his retreat. He purchased the land in 2014 for $13.6 million, and building permits showed costs of at least an additional $20 million.
There is no cost to attend a retreat, though visitors are encouraged to make a donation.
When the loaves were first released, each one cost less than $2 — a discounted price because of the product’s infancy.
The retreat center got 20 cents from each sale. In June, the price jumped to a little more than $3, depending on the store.
Rotella did not respond to questions about how much the bakery has made from the bread, or how much has been contributed to the retreat.
He told The World-Herald last April that the bread was selling well and that when Ricketts approached the bakery, the bakery told him: “If the product sells, we’ll keep doing it. But if it doesn’t, we won’t.”
As of Thursday morning, local radio ads featuring Ricketts’ voice promoting the bread were still airing.
Ricketts said last year that 10 to 15 other products to benefit The Cloisters on the Platte were in the works.
It isn’t clear how many, if any, products have been created or sold.