Luke Vescovi started Luke’s New York Bagels with his family to pay off student loans. Now, he’s using the family business to support the battle against leukemia.
The shop, located at 620 S. Main St., is usually only open Thursday to Sunday but will now open on Sept. 23 and 30 to fundraise for cancer research and cures. Since September is blood cancer awareness month, Vescovi, a 22-year-old UF biotechnology master’s student, decided to donate all of the shop’s profits from Sept. 30 to the National Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
All the company’s profits Wednesday will go to a more personal cause — Anthony Colombino, Vescovi’s uncle.
About two weeks ago, Colombino was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and immediately underwent chemotherapy, Vescovi said. He will have to remain hospitalized at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City for at least the next two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His wife had to take an unpaid leave to care for their 3-year-old son.
“We just want to try all that we can to take the financial burden off of both of them and just worry about him getting better,” Vescovi said.
Colombino, also Vescovi’s godfather, helped raise Vescovi and his older brother, Jake. He noticed Colombino’s weight loss during the baptism of his goddaughter in late August. Days later, Vescovi received news of the diagnosis.
“My uncle, who now is in the hospital, is the one who at one point in time did that for me,” Vescovi said. “It kind of brings it all full circle.”
Vescovi’s father, Mike, runs the graveyard shift at the shop, while his mom, Carolyn, manages the behind-the-scenes work to prepare her 30-year-old bagel recipe. Vescovi manages the business’ social media accounts and posted about his uncle on Facebook and Instagram.
After promoting Vescovi’s bagels last December, 34-year-old Gainesville food blogger Ken Peng said the community response to the family’s post is a testament to the loyal following they’ve generated. To Peng, it shows that they’ve treated customers like friends rather than customers.
“I love what they're doing, and I hope people will come out in droves and they sell out by 10 a.m.,” he said.
The Vescovi family is all about giving back to the community, said Wendy Robertson, a 51-year-old banker who helped the family sort the business’ finances. The shop donates extra bagels to the local fire and police departments, Ronald McDonald House Charities and nurses at UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital.
“We're not just doing this for our family,” Vescovi said. “We're trying to help out everyone in any which way we can.”
A line forming outside of Luke's New York Bagels on Main Street.