For more than 15 years, tourists, anglers and locals have started their day with a Creekside Market and Deli sandwich and a heartfelt conversation with the deli’s owner, Nick Bochicchio.

Whether it was the pork meatballs or a cold-cut special, the chef and business owner took pride in his menu and worked tirelessly to support his employees and customers. He was also a role model for other small business owners, like Nick Phillips of Sweet Cheeks Meats.

“As peers in this industry we were able to lean on each other and sympathize,” Phillips said.

“We could each be having the worst week possible and still be able to smile at each other and shake our heads and laugh it off.”

Bochicchio, 42, treated his staff like family, going out of his way to secure housing and ensure their quality of life, Phillips said. He was a dependable face behind the counter, but he did everything at the shop. He led by example.

On Monday morning, a crowd of law enforcement personnel gathered at Flat Creek, responding to the business owner’s death. Teton County Coroner Dr. Brent Blue confirmed Tuesday that Bochicchio died by suicide.

“He was too young,” said Will Dornan, who got back from fishing Monday morning and was shocked to hear the news from his cousin.

Bochicchio nourished the entire angler community with burritos, coffee and smiles, Dornan said. “That’s how you started your day.”

On Monday morning, when Dornan tried to stop by Creekside, there was a simple sign on the door: “Closed for today. Love you all.”

And by all accounts, Bochicchio did love all. He happily gifted ball caps and salt shakers; he cared for his employees and greeted customers with warmth.

For Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, he prepared tens of thousands of sandwiches, packed into coolers before the guides set off at 6 a.m.

“And they’re not making them the night before,” lead guide Jason Williams said.

Williams has known Bochicchio since the two sat down to design the first safari lunches in 2007 — surprisingly lavish charcuterie spreads topped with croissants and homemade cookies.

Over the past 15 years, he’s seen Creekside flourish under Bochicchio’s dedicated leadership.

“He always led from the front. He understood the sacrifices needed in order to succeed,” Williams said.

But lately, those sacrifices have been even greater.

With Jackson facing a housing crisis and the service industry struggling to support the summer tourist influx with limited staff, small-business owners took matters into their own hands.

Ali Cohane, co-owner of Picnic, Coelette and Persephone Bakery, opened up her basement so a barista could live in town. Others reduced hours or cut entire days to prevent staff burnout. Bochicchio, employees said, would go into the shop at 3 a.m. to start preparing sandwiches.

“When it comes to our workforce in our resort town, everyone is exhausted or overwhelmed, not practicing self-care or recognizing that they need help,” said Beverly Shore, community prevention specialist.

Because Shore’s husband owns Osprey Beverages, she’s seen the stress of management firsthand.

“It’s never not an issue,” she said. “There’s never a time he’s not feeling that.”

Thousands of tourists stopped in for a Creekside Market sandwich before heading into Grand Teton National Park each summer, and Bochicchio would always send them off with a sub and a smile, having brought their day a bit of joy.

Locals like Dave Rhinehart got to know him personally on quieter days.

“He always had time for a hello and a smile regardless of how long the line was, and a hearty chat on slower days,” Rhinehart wrote Monday on Facebook. “Just one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”

Bocchichio first moved to the valley in junior high and took a job as a line cook at Snake River Brewing shortly after graduation. By age 22 he was the chef. In 2006 he bought Creekside.

Over the years, he built the market into an institution, securing a liquor license and forging lasting relationships with anglers and the broader Jackson community. He stocked the shop with local honey and meat, and he recently took steps to join a new composting effort led by Haderlie Farms.

Last year, he made the difficult decision to close the shop for a stint to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“As a business owner, it is my right and responsibility, to hit the pause button,” Bochicchio wrote in an email to staff at the time. “We need to take time to make sure that everyone, our staff, and community, is healthy and safe.”

Friend and longtime News&Guide columnist Laurel “Bru” Wicks described a sense of “collective heartbreak” Monday morning when she heard that the market owner had died.

“I think we’re beyond the breaking point,” she said. “It’s that serious. We all need to take care of ourselves and each other. ... We did not live through the pandemic to be stretched and tortured beyond our capacity.”

Loved ones placed flowers and cards at the Creekside facade Tuesday in honor of Bochicchio. Many offered condolences to his wife, Sarah, and their children.

And they vowed to do whatever it takes to ease the impact of this tragedy.

“I’d gladly stand behind the counter and sling sandwiches if that’s what’s needed,” Williams said.

But friends know Bochicchio’s compassion and commitment won’t be that easy to replace.

“We’ve all lost a very special person that brought so much to this valley,” Phillips said. “He always did it much better than I could, and that gives me something to push for in life.”

A fundraiser for Bochicchio’s wife and young family can be found by searching his name on GoFundMe.com.

“We’ve all lost a very special person that brought so much to this valley.” — Nick Phillips Owner, Sweet cheeks meats

Contact Evan Robinson-Johnson at 732-5901 or ERJ@jhnewsandguide.com.

Evan Robinson-Johnson covers issues residents face on a daily basis, from smoky skies to housing insecurity. Originally from New England, he has settled in east Jackson and avoids crowds by rollerblading through the alleyways.

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