When friends Paul Makarechian and Jason Liebman founded lifestyle hospitality group Auric Road in 2016, they set out to offer one-of-a-kind, luxury hospitality experiences.
They were ahead of the experiential travel trend that strengthened post-pandemic.
“Travelers are looking for more than just a vacation; they are looking for a way to truly connect with others and their surroundings,” said Makarechian, Auric Road’s CEO. “While luxury means different things to different people, shared experiences have surfaced to the top of most travelers’ wish lists when booking a vacation. Travelers want to be immersed in a new culture, feel at one with the community and have experiences that offer a sense of escapism.”
In 2001, Makarechian—who started his career on Wall Street before working for his family’s commercial real estate development business out west—launched his own commercial development company “as a way to combine my finance and real estate background with my passion for the hotel sector and owning and evolving unique properties.” Nine years later, he began focusing on the concept that would become Auric Road.
“Jason [the company’s chief investment officer]and I saw a space in the market for a collection of intimate, reimagined properties with personalization and destination at their core,” he said. “It’s our mission to offer a new imagining of what luxury travel means in the form of creating immersive, off-the-beaten-track experiences with curated adventures, personalized service and options for epic private buyouts and events.”
The company’s current portfolio consists of three properties: Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky, MT, a reimagined guest ranch homesteaded in 1915 offering 25 private cabins; Korakia Pensione, a 1.5-acre, adults-only resort in Palm Springs, CA, featuring a combination of 28 bungalows, guesthouses and villas; and Hotel Joaquin, a 22-room, adults-only resort in Laguna Beach, CA.
All three properties offer activities and experiences that immerse guests in the culture of each destination. For example, Lone Mountain Ranch, Makarechian said, “offers one of the best cross-country skiing programs in the country and exclusive guided access to Yellowstone National Park. There’s also a weekly on-property rodeo in the summer in which teams of cowboys or cowgirls from their home ranch compete in events including barrel racing, ranch roping and Old West bronc rides, while onlookers enjoy an elevated Montana cookout.”
In the winter, he added, “the Sleigh Ride Dinner takes guests off through the snow for a 20-minute horse ride under a starlit sky to our historic North Fork Cabin, where they’ll enjoy a classic Montana prime rib meal by oil-lamp with rosemary popovers, crème fraîche mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and huckleberry cobbler, all while our cowboy singer/storytellers entertain them”
Other activities at the ranch include fly fishing local trout rivers, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hot air ballooning and discovering 53 miles of hiking trails.
Korakia Pensione offers a “full spiritual experience,” according to the CEO, with morning yoga, a sound meditation bath, a guided hike through the sacred grounds of Tahquitz Canyon and a massage to follow.
Hotel Joaquin “excels at crafting the most amazing group experiences,” said Makarechian. “Serving as a private estate, the pool and living room areas are fully customizable. Our culinary team creates custom menus, working with our preferred local vendor to make any event—weddings, corporate retreats, parties—exactly as envisioned and true to the destination.”
Guiding these experiences are each resort’s team members, who are enthusiasts of the activities they operate.
“Our staff is made up of area locals that can tell intimate stories, craft authentic culinary experiences and give new insight into the location from a truly knowing perspective that a larger resort can’t always offer,” said Makarechian.
This past December, the company launched Auric Room 1915, a new social club concept for members and on-ranch guests.
“Auric Room 1915 has been created as an intimate gathering space, carefully curated to reflect the period of adventure and discovery of the early 20th century in Big Sky,” he said. “It’s a cellphone-free environment to protect the privacy of guests, as well as allowing members to step back in time before the distraction of cellphones to engage. Auric Room 1915 brings together locals and visitors alike to relax and connect over shared stories and experiences, while indulging in the most unique culinary, wine and whiskey offerings in Big Sky.”
Auric Room has also introduced a barrel program, offering a selection of rare whiskeys and antique scotches, as well as one of the most extensive wine collections in Montana, according to Makarechian.
“We’ll also offer a Liquor Locker Program for our members, featuring 40 lockers which members can lease annually and can purchase from a selection of rare whiskey and wine collections,” he said. “Continuing to embrace the pioneering spirit of Lone Mountain Ranch, founding first-year members of Auric Room will be gifted a custom belt buckle in Montana tradition.”
The Auric Room members club concept will be offered at all of the company’s new developments, noted the CEO, adding, “Further Auric Room openings will draw upon their own unique destination for inspiration and connect members across the Americas.”
The next project on deck—which will also include an Auric Room—is Casa Doa located in Tubac, AZ, just south of Tuscon. The 50-acre ranch sits at the edge of the Coronado National Forest in the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. The 19th-century historic property was originally purchased by Rex Hamaker, a Texan oilman, who, in the 1930s, turned it into a hacienda-style compound with courtyards and fountains.
“We anticipate starting construction this year and reopening it after a 24-month build,” said Makarechian. “Upon completion, the property will be reimagined as a 50-room luxury wellness resort. Planned amenities include a world-class spa and restaurant, a two-acre pond and sweat lodges.”
Makarechian said the company is looking to grow its portfolio across North America, adding, “We have an extensive deal pipeline which includes Pacific Northwestern fishing lodges; Montana ranches that offer a complementary experience to Lone Mountain Ranch; coastal Florida adventure properties; Bourbon trail distilleries; and several mountain adventure properties that sit adjacent to U.S. National Parks.”