Mark Parobek - Gore Mountain Lodge
Michelle Brandriss: If you are a skier and you live in the Northeast, you may have heard of The Lodge at Gore Mountain. Located at the foot of the ski hill, a little motel has been transformed into an eclectically cool mountain retreat. Purchased by the Parobeck brothers in 2013, The Lodge has grown into North Creek's après- ski location. It's a family business and it's genius. As a frequent guest, I feel like I'm one of the family and I would guess most visitors probably feel the same way. Every year. The [Paro-bros 00:00:51] surprise the community with something new and we all look forward to the unveiling. I can attest that each edition adds to the fun. Through the years, we've come back to find a German restaurant and bar, a hive of yurts, an outdoor stage, and bike trails that offer something for everyone. It's a place for people to come together and make memories. And Mark, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to From the Basement Up.
Emily: Welcome, Mark.
Mark Parobeck : Thank you for having me.
Michelle Brandriss: We're glad you're here. T.
Emily: Hank you for coming.
Michelle Brandriss: Yes. Mark, I'm very excited that you came because I obviously go to Becks and The Lodge and I go to the yurts, and it really is something that my family looks forward to every year. And actually, we actually go during the summers and the fall. So there's a lot to unpack in this episode just because I've seen the evolution of your business, and I've watched everything that's happened and I've been so inspired. You've been in ski magazine. It really is the place you've built a community. And I've said this to you many times, what an in inspiration it's been to watch this place where people can come together and enjoy each other's company. And it really has given so much to North Creek. So what I would love to know is when you started this, what was the feeling that you wanted people to have when they came to The Lodge and to Becks?
Mark Parobeck : Yeah, there really aren't a lot of places. If you want to live near Gore Mountain, simply because of the restrictions of development in the Adirondack, there aren't a lot of places that you can go to. It's not a conventional ski mountain because it's owned by the State of New York. And that limitation is what makes it so wonderful. Because you have pristine views. You have wild wilderness right there. Right behind our hotel is 113, 000 acres of land that's never going to be developed. And that's what makes it so magical. So we accidentally became hotel owners when we were looking for a cabin in the woods and we purchased the closest property that we could find to it which was a hotel.
Michelle Brandriss: Okay. And if people could understand this, it's gorgeous. You have this amazing property that backs up and you can can ski out. So you're skiing on the mountain and you can ski right down to your hotel. And you're the only place at North Creek that can do that.
Mark Parobeck : Well, I mean, technically there are some others, but really you're right. We develop... There's so many trails that were in existence leading off of the mountain. Some of them had just been abandoned and really not cleaned up for a long time. And really, so we have the ability when there's natural snow in the woods to ski down to Becks Tavern, to ski down to our property. And in fact, like all good things, early on, we didn't know if there were rules and regulations against that. But whatever their true rules and regulations are, word got out and it's now been in the process with the local governmental authorities of making that a real option. In other words, putting signage up so that people are aware of where they end up when they end up in the woods. Because the woods is wide open and there's trails that often go many places. And so our feeling has always been that if you get into the woods, you should at least know that you're headed to a place you can get a beer.
Emily: So I have a question. Most people, if they found out the only property they could buy was a hotel, they would probably say no and back out of the whole deal. Why did you forge ahead and buy the hotel?
Mark Parobeck : Well, we bought it just based on location. We bought it really without an intention of running a hotel or a restaurant. We were going to hold the rooms to ourselves in the hotel and simply live there in the winter. We considered renting out some rooms to friends who wanted some. But we were late to... We purchased the property in July of 2013. We were a little late in getting it ready for the beginning of the ski season, which typically happens at the end of November. We were ready to go in January. And by that point, everyone who was looking for a rental had already found something to rent. And so we had all these extra rooms that were perfectly well done and we just turning on the vacancy sign again. Because you turn on a sign and you expect everything to happen at once, and literally nothing happened for a few days. Really for a couple weeks, honestly. Many people were... If you had been at this hotel prior to our ownership, I think you would've been, in certain cases, depending on your demographic, you might have been scared to stay there again.
Michelle Brandriss: That was going to be one of my questions for you was what did the hotel look like?
Mark Parobeck : Yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: Was it like the Bate's motel?
Mark Parobeck : Well, I mean, it had an Elvis room, it had a Christmas tree room. It was kitschy. It was nice. Most of it ended up out front and given away. And really funny because one of the greatest things the hotel came with was an old gondola from Gore. There were these great old gondolas from a gondola that I think was installed in 1965. And once that gondola was decommissioned, they ended up scattered throughout the area. And we fortunately have one. It was number 13. We still have it listed as number 13. But when we were putting out old beds, old furniture, tables and lights, one of the people who was helping me started piling it all up right by the gondola. And I said," I think that's a terrible idea because people are going to want to take the gondola." He's like," No, one's going to take the gondola." Well, the first person that arrived started hauling away the gondola. And I looked at my friend and said," You see?"
Emily: Did you get it back? Oh my gosh.
Mark Parobeck : Oh yeah. Yeah. I had my eyes out. I knew what was going to happen. I could see it, and it happened exactly as envisioned.
Emily: I hate those moments.
Michelle Brandriss: I know.
Emily: You have to just let it happen too.
Michelle Brandriss: Well, it's like you hate to be the one that says I told you, but sometimes you just have to say it.
Mark Parobeck : Well, I mean it, I think it leads right back to some sort of psychology explains that. And really this whole project has been really a big psychological experiment because you're dealing with the public, you're dealing with people, we're dealing with ourselves and our family.
Michelle Brandriss: Huge growth.
Mark Parobeck : Yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: I mean, you're growing the business, you're growing as a family. It's been amazing to watch. So whose idea was it to buy the property? Was this your idea?
Mark Parobeck : There's going to be argument over that because I have a friend or two who believes it was their idea.
Michelle Brandriss: Okay.
Mark Parobeck : But really, I think both my brother and I happened to notice the sign. My children were very young at that time. What was that? 2013, so they were five and six, six and seven, something like that. Two boys. And we were taking them skiing at Gore after taking them skiing at West Mountain. I thought the first time I took them skiing, I thought we'd be on a little bunny hill for many years and that was not the case. So our skiing evolved to Gore Mountain, which was close to where we live in Saratoga. And as we went back and forth, the first year it seemed like a big step to rent a locker on the mountain. I really feel like I was investing in the mountain by purchasing a$ 225 locker with a rental fee of that per year. But we saw this property for sale, there was a realtor sign, essentially buried in the snow. I think both my brother and I looked at it, but it was at a rate, it was at a price, a listing that neither of us seemed attracted to it. I mean, at the end of the day, I think the attraction was, it was going to be a good investment. However, I think about a year later, in desperation to get out of their business, the owners essentially dropped the price in half, and that's when we looked again. Part of that was they eliminated the house that was part of the property from the listing. And at first, we were inclined to purchase it without that house. But as we got deeper into the negotiations and contracts and such, we realized that to purchase this property without all of the property, without barns to store things in, the house which has become Becks Tavern, was going to be a mistake. So as we were negotiating on this, it was a whole different climate. People were not purchasing properties in the Adirondacks in 2013. So it was good timing, many of us... So I have two brothers who were involved with this project. The one brother in New York city, I think he was happy to be involved, but he was more of a silent partner. I think my brother Matt became more enthused about the project. And as we got closer to closing or to the moment where we could step away or not, I really had the reservations because I knew I'm the one that's... My brother Matt does most of the operations up there, I do most of the envisioning of what we're going to build. So I knew I was bringing a lot of work onto the table. But at the end of the day, I think we just felt like it was a no brainer and it would've been a big mistake if we didn't purchase it. And I feel that I think we got very lucky a lot. There was a confluence of a lot of ideas, a lot of events that brought us to that moment.
Michelle Brandriss: And for the listeners, Becks Tavern and The Lodge and I can't stress this enough, there was nothing in North Creek that would bring people together after skiing. And this magical place that the Parobeck brothers have developed is now the meeting ground for everybody after skiing to come and have a drink, listen to live music, really a wonderful place to get together. But back in the day, when you bought The Lodge, you needed to have that vision to see what the potential was and that's what really inspires me to bring you on and have the listeners listen to this. Because you took this rundown motel and you've turned it into this really kitschy, fun, unique, quirky place that everybody loves to go to. And I just really love the process and want you to share that journey of how you created this great place. So as far as the property, when you were buying it, and I've also loved hearing stories or lessons that you can pass on, what was one of the lessons that you could tell people about the initial purchasing of the property and how you were able to develop it year after year?
Mark Parobeck : Well, there's a lot to unpack there, but I think... I mean, I'm definitely of the belief that you should, in certain cases, you can't overanalyze the project and you need to jump in. At the same time, I had enough experience with purchasing other real estate in my life that I was aware of how you had to be well capitalized. If we went into this project to make money off of it, essentially immediately, it never would've survived. But we went into the project as we knew we had a great property. We knew we had a great location and we really felt like it was worth whatever investment we were going to put into it. I think more than anyone, I definitely saw the idea of a restaurant very early on. Because I just felt like, as you said, Michelle, there were limited options of what you could do at the end of the ski day in North Creek. And in so many ways that's okay. Because there's a lot of commuters that come from the mountain or come from Saratoga or Albany and all they want to do at the end of the day is maybe have a drink on the mountain, some food up there, but just head home and get home as fast as possible. I have always been a fan, I think almost more than the skiing, of the skiing culture. It brings together such great people. I mean myself, I got to go on a wonderful trip with your husband and your son to Austria. Probably one of the best ski adventures of my life. And that's because skiing brings great people together. So I saw a need, as you mentioned, for the idea that an après- ski place would work. Now, there's so much to do in New York state, really, probably any state, but in New York state, especially with all the departments, Department of Health, Department of New York State Liquor Authority, Department of Labor to get something like this off the ground. So beyond all of that, which are just checklists that you have to... Really, those checklist probably took more than a year to accomplish. But beyond that, we had to have the belief that it would work. And as we were planning it, we heard from people that it would never work because people were trained to leave Gore. People were trained to just drive home that they would never stop. And that's that's where we just jumped into the deep end. We felt like we should take the chance with it because we felt like if we could adjust people's expectations or create an expectation that there was great things to do at the end of the ski day, that naturally being skiers, having the culture of liking to have some food and drink and companionship and conversations with others at the end of the ski day, that they would naturally do it. And really that's what happened.
Michelle Brandriss: Thank you for not listening to the naysayers. I really appreciate it because you have created a great place. So, and not everyone's an entrepreneur, so they don't have the vision. They don't know where you're going with it. And I guess I want to know, as far as a naysayer goes, has anyone given you good advice that was a naysayer?
Mark Parobeck : Specific advice, I mean off the top of my head, I can't think of anything. However, I mean, the advice for all people in my belief is that there's an opinion for everything. Whatever you want, and usually it's just like in politics, it hovers really close to 50/ 50, the scales. I'm a Libra so maybe that makes sense to me. So everything is usually coming close to balancing out and all you need to go one way or the other is just a little bit of shift of weight. And so as a person, I listen to all opinions, but at the end of the day, I'm not... I'm pretty good at making my own choice and not being afraid to adjust to that choice. If it's a mistake, I will adjust to it. But I'll give it enough time to say... I don't need to listen to everything. I'll listen to it all for a point. But when it's time to move my own direction, I'll make those decisions. And that's another piece of advice. Actually, a piece of advice I gave to someone else once upon a time. A person who wanted... I was purchasing some real estate in Saratoga and he was considering maybe doing the same thing and he just wondered how you do it. And I didn't know this until many years later, but I gave him a piece of advice that he's held ever since. And I said," They're called decisions. You just have to make them." I mean, that's all I told him and he liked that.
Michelle Brandriss: That's a good one, that's a good quote for our show notes.
Emily: I like that.
Michelle Brandriss: Regarding future projects, you must bounce things off your brothers and you guys are very close and work together, but you are a visionary and you are artistic, and I'm always wondering what you've got going on between your ears. You must have future projects planned way out, and do your brothers not know of some things that you have planned for the future?
Mark Parobeck : Well, honestly, my brothers have... I think are show running the projects going forward. I think I was the one who jumped on a lot of the initial projects.
Michelle Brandriss: Okay.
Mark Parobeck : We did this restaurant. I saw it literally a few weeks before we to break ground. My one brother I think really had gigantic reservations about it. He was overthinking it. He was thinking it like," How many drinks do we have to sell? How many meals do we have to sell to get to a certain revenue? What is the revenue that we need to even break even?" And I said," Well, I don't know any of that, but let's just... We've carved out the capital to do it, so let's do it." And I think at the end of the day, I told him," Well, and if we ever need to turn the restaurant back into a house, it'll be a really wonderful house with a very large kitchen." But yeah, as we have built more and more, I think my brothers have just naturally jumped into the process of being the visionaries too. And so I listen to them as much as I give them visions. And really where we're going now, so much of it is I think what I had seen maybe a few years ago. But because again, I know that so much of the work is going to fall under my stewardship, maybe I didn't speak up as quickly as I needed to or wanted to, and they're the one speaking up and drawing a direction which I totally agree with.
Michelle Brandriss: Actually, it's fun. It's fun watching that leadership role change and the supportive change. I think that's the way to do it, and then everybody gets to have their pet projects that they get to move forward on. As far as the restaurant goes and the bar, I wanted to share with the listeners, and when they get to Becks, really there's a lot of personal touches as you walk through the building. I wanted you to kind of touch on that a little bit.
Mark Parobeck : Yeah. I think we have a unique restaurant in the sense that it, to me, in many ways it feels like a piece of art and it continues to develop. And I think some of the great bars and restaurants that I've been to in my life are like that. I think ours maybe takes it almost to the next level, because we allow a lot of our patrons and guests and friends and family to participate in the process. They participated in it early on. One of the first days we opened up, I've always been a fan of letter blocks and Scrabble pieces, but we had this big wooden entry hallway, and we had a party, I think a couple of months at the end of the ski season, before we opened Becks Tavern officially that summer. And we had lots of friends, family, and lots of kids were around. And the kids, once they figured out that I was going to allow them to glue their names onto the walls, they just jumped at the idea. And we've turned that idea into in the yurts, we have left markers out, Sharpies out, and people decorate the hallways. And it's gone a little bit beyond that now. It's gone into, they're really starting to decorate the woodwork in the yurts. And I wasn't sure if I was down with that at first, but I am, I like it. And I see what's happening to it. And actually, it's bringing back a memory. There used to be a great bar in NoHo, I guess, it would be just north of Hudson in New York city called the Mars bar. And it was a bar that was... It's torn down now, I'm sure it's some giant condominium complex, but literally every square inch of that was graffiti. And now I don't want every square inch of the yurts graffiti, but if I can control the process where people stick with the plan and graffiti what we want, I think it's going to ultimately look really cool.
Michelle Brandriss: It has a life of its own. It seems to have this personality that continues to grow. When you created the bar, you have this little nook set up and it's like," Coach's corner" And you'll see the ski coaches sitting there. And it really does have this great personality that continues to evolve. That is what I find so special about it as well. As I was saying in the beginning, you feel like you belong, you feel like you're part of this community, part of this family, and that's just very special. It's not something you get everywhere you go. I did want to touch on the yurts. So this is fun, and if you don't mind, kind of talk about your vision with the yurts. Because I look at it as it's like a beehive, and it's growing and you're thinking of new things and it's been fun to watch. So if you don't mind touching on that, and I want to know how that impacted your business.
Mark Parobeck : Well, the yurts really, I think the yurts in certain ways became the business. The business is Becks Tavern, but the yurts, I think we identify with... Or the yurts have brought sense of vibrancy to what we offer. We had yurts on the property. We didn't have yurts on the property. We had a hotel, we immediately knew we needed space for people to gather. I'd always been fascinated by yurts. In fact, probably the property I would've bought in North Creek, if it didn't sell just before I was really actively looking, was a yurt in North River, which is about 15 miles north. And it was super affordable. It was super cool looking and someone else bought it right as I was looking, and so I had to look elsewhere. But so when we needed some space, we just said," Heck, let's put a yurt up." So we put a yurt, a very small one, 14 feet. And then the next winter, we said," Well, that wasn't enough." So we put up another one right beside it. And those became just a special place for our guests to hang out. Really beyond that, we found our friends hanging out there. We found that we would have a big end of the year ski party there. My good friend... And this touches upon, again, it's not what we've done. Maybe we seeded the project. Maybe we saw what we wanted and we started doing it. But it's what everyone else is doing now, mostly really our employees and the patrons and guests that they bring in, because we couldn't do any of this without them. But so we built these couple of yurts then that led to the idea, Well, you could have a restaurant. I mean, people want to..." That reaffirmed, that started getting people to think who thought we were crazy about thinking about a restaurant, they kind of said," Well, maybe you could actually." So we went in that direction. But once we had the restaurant, we just found that it, as just being the sole entity, we were trying to do too much there. People wanted to have the après- ski. They wanted to have a nice experience at dinner. They wanted to maybe have some music too, and trying to do that all the first year there, we found we couldn't do any of it. What we did it all like successfully, but it was too much, it needed more of its own individual identity. So I always did know when I had the initial plans of Becks to the entry side of it, where there's a fire pit, I felt like we could have a year right there. It'd just be one year. That would be kind of, it would just add more space to the restaurant. A only be about 10 or 15 feet away. And that's, I was so intent on putting our first restaurant year there and my brothers, again, this is where it's great to work with other people that you trust their ideas and listen to all opinions at the end of the day, make your own choices with the three of us working together. I mean, we have to come to a consensus, but they both their idea crystallized, no, we should put it. We should put it by this big field. We should put it across the parking lot. And I personally didn't see that at first, I just thought they had a passing fancy and I was going to build what I wanted to build, but the more they stuck with it, the more I saw that they were. Right. And so what we were able to do, we built one year, we built, then we built a second year. The following year we saw right away, we needed it. Then everything was shut down by COVID and we felt like we were never going to build again. But that fall, just one afternoon, my brothers and I were looking at each other and we said," You know what? We really need another yurt for this winter to... Sure, it's COVID and we're going to be slower maybe, or we need to spread people out, but let's build another yurt." So we did. And so right now we actually have five yurts on the property. But three, the hive that you're talking about, Michelle, is three yurts that make a yurt bar complex. And by having that separate location, really what we've identified is that people can entertain themselves out there. They can have lively conversations, they can listen to music, they can imbibe on out alcohol. They can bring food out there from the restaurant, but it allows the restaurant to serve as a place that functions for food, functions for drink as well, but it's a little less lively than what you find just a hundred feet away across the parking lot.
Michelle Brandriss: Do you feel that the yurts helped you get through COVID?
Mark Parobeck : Yeah, I don't know what helped us get through COVID. It was a hit or miss proposition, in so many ways, we got lucky. I think what helped us the most is that we are in the mountains and there's fresh air, and people wanted to get out of cities and one of the places they went on the East Coast was the mountains. That said, yeah, I think the yurts absolutely helped us. The outdoor environment that we have helped us.
Michelle Brandriss: It's interesting. So you and David ski together, you're friends, you helped my husband get through COVID with your outdoor stage. I can't even tell you that was the best thing for him and getting there... And he would call and," You've got to get here, you've got to see this band." Going there and arriving, and seeing people have that outdoor space listening to music during the summer. That was so therapeutic. That was amazing. I am so thrilled you did that. And I think you built that right before COVID, am I correct?
Mark Parobeck : We did. The fall of 2019 we built a stage. In the spring of 2020 when COVID was on, we adjusted it a little bit, we improved the way it functioned. Because I did have the sense, I was just looking at how can we have music and the rules that... To think that there were rules of what you could and could not do in things that we always took for granted is totally remarkable, and something that I think we'll always look back on and hope it doesn't happen again. But understand that at that time, I guess it had to happen, because we didn't know what was going on with the world. But the idea was that we could have music as long as we didn't advertise it. And so we had this great outdoor space and then beyond that just all the stars aligned because we had... North Creek has this wonderful music scene. It's almost unlike any other. And I've asked people and I've tried to figure out what made it, and what made it was a wonderful teacher at the town of Johnsburg. There was this, I can't remember his name, but he was the music teacher and this man, just like a good mentor, a good teacher, inspired enough people in this area that there's an unusual number of extremely talented musicians coming out of North Creek. So our stage was filled with them that summer. And then we had some musical acts that simply probably would've been out on the road more than they would've been in the local area. But since they weren't out on the road and they figured out that we had this great space, they offered themselves up. And so yeah, it really started... It put us on the map for music. And so in that regard, I mean, there was a lot of hard work that went into that. Some luck that we had. We knew we needed a stage somehow beforehand, but we didn't know how influential to us that stage would be once COVID hit.
Michelle Brandriss: What are the plans? It sounds like you have the potential of having a big music venue up there. So do you all have plans for the summer and fall?
Mark Parobeck : Well, we do music three... We're going to do music three days a week: Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Really in running this business, we found for ourselves, the easiest way to keep it going is to consistently offer the same things. When we try to have events and it's a one off event, it's so hard. It's so hard to target that advertising to the people. Yet, if everyone knows that we have every... I mean, really one of our first events was Octoberfest weekend. People know that we're open that weekend. We started having music. That's really why we built that stage. We wanted to have an outdoor venue for one weekend of the year that we built the stage, and that's led to every weekend of the year. And when we're not outside, we're inside in the yurts. So consistency, I forget what the exact question is, but we set our hours and we keep to our hours. That was very... We adjust them. We used to be open much later, COVID had us shut down at nine o'clock and we found that nine o'clock is a perfect hour for us to shut down as a restaurant and a bar. Sometimes the yurts go a little longer with music, and that's okay because it's separate. But by always switching hours up, always switching things up, by trying to do a one time event, for us, we found that doesn't work. We find that we... And that's why the last couple weekends after the ski season or skiing's still going on, music's been a little slow, but we're willing to keep that because we know... Well, actually last Saturday, it wasn't very slow. But if we were picking and choosing when we wanted to do it or shut down in April and not do music in April, people might forget in May that we were doing music.
Michelle Brandriss: It's interesting you said that. My husband was saying, the ski season finished early for us as a family. Unfortunately, my son got sick, then I got sick, and then Dave got sick. So we were not very consistent that last month. And he feels like he left out. He lost out on that last month of the ski season. So he's like," Okay, we need to go up to North Creek to go to Becks and listen to music." So if he knows it's there, he's going to go and that will make him happy. And I think that makes so much sense on so many levels, just the consistency, your customers are going to know what to expect and that is so smart.
Emily: Yeah. You're creating a sense of normalcy during... The past two years have been nothing but not normal and ever changing. So as long as you're creating that environment for your customers, I'm sure that they are made to feel good.
Michelle Brandriss: Good point. That's a great point. Mark, you touched on the magical part of the woods, and I call it Becks backyard. And I often will go and go on little mini hikes and walk dogs and head back there. And I would love for you to talk about Becks backyard, and what it does for people, what you're offering for biking, for hiking, and even maybe Narnia.
Mark Parobeck : Yeah, well, we have this wonderful backyard and we have amazing neighbors. Most of the neighborship of the backyard is the town of Johnsburg, which owns us partial land and the State of New York. But we also have some next door neighbors that own a piece of land that touches things. And it's a very European model of what has happened in the area, what is happening in the Northeast. In Europe, there's trails that lead through private lands and that's they've been established for centuries, for thousands of years, in some cases, and they just exist. In our country, it seems like so often we've put up walls. We've blocked off neighborhoods. I mean, heck, in Bel Air in California, you can can't even get into public neighborhoods in some cases, because it's just not allowed. But with trails, in specifically in the Adirondacks, in our backyard, what you're calling Beck's backyard, there were a lot of trails in existence that were goat paths or such. Then about 10 years ago, some great forces came together and built bike trails in lands owned by the town of Johnsburg. And since we've owned Becks, in working with the town of Johnsburg, in working with the state, in working with our next door neighbors, we've come to a consensus of how legally those trails can come down into our property. And so now there are, as we said, there's a trail that goes to the water tower, which we call a ski trail. And then there's multiple bike trails that feed down into our yard or into the Becks property, and because of that... So yeah, Michelle's right. You can come with your dog. If you're tired in the afternoon and you don't want to hear music anymore, you can walk really around a corner, two minutes away, and you are in a... I mean, my wife calls it Narnia because you hike up the trail a little bit, you turn off, and you find this secluded spot along roaring Brook, and it is magical and you are away from everything by only walking five minutes.
Michelle Brandriss: It is very magical.
Emily: It seems like you found a way to incorporate everything.
Mark Parobeck : Yeah, well, I mean, I'll go back to the... When I was really on the fence of purchasing this property, I was able to delay it. I think we signed a contract in January, and I was able to delay it all the way to I think May, really deciding if we were going to do it or not. And I came to the point where I needed to make the decision. And so I went up there, I met the realtor, we walked around and then I just saw this path, which was the trail that... It's an actual road in the woods that leads about three quarters of a mile to a water tower. That was probably the only parcel of existing trail that wasn't overgrown because the town had to maintain that water tower. And I just hiked up it and I hiked all the way 10, 15 minutes away until I could see the ski lifts. And I just thought to myself, at that moment when I saw this ski lift, I'm like," We really have to purchase this." Because where else am I going to buy a property in the Northeast where I can walk through a state owned wilderness in my backyard and visit a ski lift? They don't exist.
Michelle Brandriss: No, it's amazing. I wanted to know if you have a fun story that you could share. I know you've had some crazy stories, but is there one that you can share with the listeners that's just kind of funny that just sums up everything that you've experienced through the years?
Mark Parobeck : Yeah. Well, this is probably the... I mean, this story makes me laugh. Customers can be tough. Right? I think COVID has changed the idea of how we're expected to deal with customers. I have a little less patience than I used to have. LL Bean has less patience than they used to have. Sometimes in the last few years, the idea that anything that you ever purchased from LL Bean is returnable doesn't exist anymore. The former owner of The Lodge is a character. I mean, he's a wonderful guy. He does a lot of work for us and we love him. He's become a great friend. I think what he said to me one day is like," If all I have to do..." He mows our grass. He takes care of the land. He's like," If that's all I had to do, I would've been a great hotel owner." Well, that's not all you have to do. There's a lot you have to do. Early on when he was helping us out as we were rejuvenating this property, he had this great dog named King, for Elvis. For the Elvis room, I believe. And King was a big rottweiler. Big, lazy dog. He would roam around the property. He felt like he owned the property. It was his place. If you pulled in, he would bark at you. He barked at me, I owned the property. He didn't get the word that I was now the owner of the deed, that I had the mortgage. He didn't care about that. That's the great thing about being a dog. There was one day when we had a guest coming in. They came in, Jeff was around, King was wandering around. I was off somewhere else doing something. I heard King barking going nuts. He was basically chasing down the person who was trying to get to the room. I explained to the person, I'm very sorry about this. This never happens. I'll never let it happen again. They were very angry with me, but they got over it. So I walked Jeff aside and I told Jeff, I said," Jeff, listen, you can't... I love king. You can bring him. But he has to either be on a leash or you have to have control of him. You just can't let him harass our guests." Jeff looks at me and he's got a very gravely voice that he's like," Ah, that's nothing." He said," King once jumped into a stroller. He was in the stroller in the face of the baby." He said," That lady, she had a problem with King." Yeah. So I just smiled and said," Exactly, Jeff, we need to make sure that you keep track of your dog before he jumps in another stroller."
Emily: Oh that's nothing.
Michelle Brandriss: In some ways, that kind of sums up North Creek, in a way too. You do have a lot of fun characters up there. So it's a cool ski town. I love it.
Mark Parobeck : Yeah.
Michelle Brandriss: It's laid back. It's fun. Actually, this is a good segue and I know that we're going to be wrapping up soon, but what changes... I hear are things, and I don't know what's going on, because it's kind of state funded projects, but what things do you see happening with North Creek over the next five to 10 years? Because I know that they probably have things planned out.
Mark Parobeck : Well, they do. And the state is a little cagey about ideas, and I've come to realize why they are. Because the best thing a politician can do is announce a project. And the second best thing that a politician can do or that can happen to them is that project never happens because then they have a slush fund of money that they can dream up another project and announce another project. So being a politician is somewhat different than being a developer. A developer, you're dealing with your own capital, usually. You need to put it to work. You need to make sure that what you've created is sustainable. And so I mean, I'm proud that we... I think we've at this point, I'm not going to say it was touch and go at places, but we've made a sustainable business. We are not... Sunny with a chance of nuclear war? Yeah, we're worried about the future. However, we understand that things are going to happen, whether they're in our control or outside of group control. I think we're going to remain in business, as long as we have the passion to keep running it. Gore has done so much. It's honestly hard to fathom what Gore has done in the last 10 or 12 years, even before we were there. Really they had a 25 year plan 25 years ago, and more or less they've accomplished most of it. So in accomplishing what they've done to this point, they... Even myself, there's a lot of people," Well, they've done it. Why do they have to do anymore?" Well, I don't know why they have to do more. I mean, maybe I think they need to do a little bit more because North Creek is not completely sustainable yet. It needs a little bit more tourism. It needs a little bit more ability to sustain itself during those slow times. And I think, what the state has planned for it now really makes sense. It's a controversial issue, but they are going to develop it and it helps us. It will directly help us, but I believe it will directly help everyone in North Creek. The closest ski part of the mountain is the Ski Bowl, which is really only across the street from downtown North Creek. They see the potential in that. When you drive to Gore, you can almost be on these Adirondack roads. And unless when and where to look, you might not even know... And besides the somewhat limited signage because of the rules in the park, you might not even know that you have to take a left and there's a ski resort there with all these mountains, or with all these chair lifts and multiple peaks. But you do know when you pass the Ski Bowl. The Ski Bowl is right there on a prominent highway that gets more than a million cars a year, I believe. And so someone identified 20 years ago, that's where Gore should develop. They've attempted that. They've done minor developments while creating really a world class facility up on the ski hill. But now that they've done all their work up on the ski hill or most of their work, they're going to shift to the Ski Bowl. And so they're going to improve the lifts there, improve the services there, offer a year round activity with this zip coaster. It's not just a zip line. It's actually you hook on the bottom of the mountain and it carries you all around, drops you in different places, I guess, then carries you higher, drops you, and it's a 10 or 15 minute ride and you're done now. Yeah, these are kind of pie in the sky ideas, but I think they're happening now. They're going to build a better lodge. They're going to add a lift that is a high speed quad. And I think really what that does is that opens up that whole section of the mountain to mountain bikers. And I was just in Burke, Vermont this winter, and it was it's a dreamy little ski town, but what everyone told me there is," Well, skiing's secondary, it's mountain biking that brings all the revenue." So honestly, some of the naysayers of what's going on in the ski bowl, I'm just of the belief that nothing is ever going to stay the same. If it all stays the same, you're going to have roads that have greater potholes and no ability to fix them because you don't have the revenue as the cost of fixing roads goes up. So if you have an area that can have a growth to it, you should probably embrace that. I embrace it in North Creek, in the sense that it is a totally unique in ski town, and it will remain that. It will remain in private ownerships. There's never going to be a Vail that takes it over. That takes over the whole main street, that creates a Disneyland idea of what the ski town is. Right now, it's authentic. Right now, it's beautiful. There's times at night when the sun setting when it is one of the most gorgeous places around. So a little more tourism will help sustain that. And again, what they're doing at the ski bowl with The Lodge, with the lift, with the existing mountain biking trails, trails that will probably hopefully extend to North River with continued planning, which is a village about 15 miles away. I can envision mountain biking being one of the primary revenue drivers in North Creek, whether it's summer, winter, fall, whenever. Fat tire bikes in the winter. But really it will bring the necessary tourists to help the businesses I think in the summertime. Right now, they're dependent upon overflow from Lake George and the Hudson River and hiking, but it truly isn't inaudible rail biking, which is an incredible offering too. So it all the pieces are there and the state is... It looks like the state is getting involved again. And I think in 10 years, people will look back upon this and wonder... They won't even... The squabbles that are going on right now will be like," Wow, this is pretty cool place."
Michelle Brandriss: It is a very authentic town, and I can see where people will be worried about the personality and people who live there. And you go downtown and everybody seems to know each other so I could see how there might be that fear of the fancy Aspen and these fancy things coming in and changing. I just don't know if I ever see that happening, and which is why we like it so much. It is so authentic, it's very unique, and we love it. I don't ever see us really going anywhere else. We would have to find another small little ski town that would be... I guess not where I want to say the fancy places are.
Mark Parobeck : Yeah. So I think North Creek is in a position that many people would envy. Because it is, I believe, in charge of its own growth. And it's going to have some outside factors from the state, with both the positives and negatives that will bring. But at the end of the day, it's going to create some new revenue for the town and some new development that everyone can enjoy on the state lands.
Michelle Brandriss: Thank you for sharing that, Mark. And I really do want to say this and stress it, what The Lodge and what Becks Tavern has brought to the town has been wonderful. So I just want everybody to encourage everyone when you go to North Creek and you go to Gore Mountain, you have to stop by Becks for beer after skiing, or I guess lunch while you're biking and check it out. So, but thank you so much for joining us today on From the Basement Up, we really do appreciate it.
Mark Parobeck : Oh, I had a great time. Again, I want to thank my brothers. I want to thank my wife. I want to thank really all of our employees. And really my sons too. They had to grin and bear it a lot of times. But that was part of why we entered this adventure. They've gotten to see a business be built from the ground up, and I think already they're looking back on it with how that's been good for their lives.
Michelle Brandriss: Amazing learning experience all the way around.
Emily: Thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure to listen to you.
Mark Parobeck : Anytime.
Michelle Brandriss: Thank you for joining us today on from the Basement Up. Mark Parobeck is a good friend of ours and the Parobeck family. It was such a pleasure to have him on the show today and really share and listen to his story of how he and his family purchased The Lodge and have developed that into North Creek's premier après- ski location. Give us that five star review and check us out on our show notes. Thanks so much for listening to From the Basement Up.
Emily: Thank you so much for joining us today on From the Basement Up. Please be sure to check namebubbles. com or our blog on the podcast and all of the show notes, resources, and links for our guests every Thursday. And please be sure to leave us a five star review wherever you get your podcast. See you next week, and thank you.
In this episode of From the Basement Up, Michelle Brandriss is joined by entrepreneur and business owner, Mark Parobek. Tune in to listen to Mark's story of looking for a property for himself to be able to enjoy the beauty at Gore Mountain, only to end up bringing the community exactly what it needed. Mark’s business is a restaurant, bar, an ornate hotel with themed rooms, filled with great stories, good music, yurts, bike trails, and the list goes on. This haven of fun and relaxation was the perfect addition to a developing ski town in Upstate New York.
In this episode of From the Basement Up, Michelle Brandriss is joined by entrepreneur and business owner, Mark Parobek. We get to listen to Mark's experience in looking for a property for himself to be able to enjoy the beauty at Gore Mountain, only to end up bringing the community exactly what it needed. Whether this is a restaurant, bar, an ornate hotel with themed rooms, great stories, good music, yurts, bike trails, and the list goes on. This haven of fun and relaxation was the perfect addition to a developing ski town in Upstate New York.
Mark is an Upstate New York native, and while spending some time with his wife and family in Saratoga Springs, he felt like he needed a change. That change ended up being purchasing a property in the ski region at Gore Mountain, with his brothers. The 'Parobros' have evolved this ski hill motel into a kitschy hotel, a restaurant, bar, hive of yurts, stage for live music, bike trails, and more. In 2013 Mark didn't see himself becoming an entrepreneur, but now almost a decade later, he is happy to call himself an accidental entrepreneur and small business owner.
If you are a skier and you live in the Northeast, you may have heard of the Lodge at Gore Mountain. Located at the foot of the ski hill, a little motel has been transformed into an eclectically cool mountain retreat. Purchased by Mark Parobek and the "Parobros" in 2013, The Lodge has grown into North Creek's après ski location. Mark is an Upstate New York native, and when he's not at the lodge, most likely he is with his wife and family in Saratoga Springs.
The 'Parobros' have evolved this ski hill motel into a kitschy hotel, a restaurant, bar, hive of yurts, stage for live music, bike trails, and more. In 2013 Mark didn't see himself becoming an entrepreneur, but now almost a decade later, he is happy to own this role of an accidental entrepreneur and a small business owner own. Mark is an Upstate New York native, and while spending some time with his wife and family in Saratoga Springs, he felt like he needed a change. That change ended up being purchasing a property in the ski region at Gore Mountain, with his brothers.
The 'Parobros' have evolved this ski hill motel into an ornate hotel, a restaurant, bar, hive of yurts, stage for live music, bike trails, and more. In 2013 Mark didn't see himself becoming an entrepreneur, but now almost a decade later, he is happy to call himself an accidental entrepreneur and small business owner. Tune in to listen to this awesome story of how a simple idea can turn out to be a stroke of genius.