When Mackenzie and I heard a young couple from Boston bought 20+ acres of land in the White Mountains and developed it into a Glamping, Nordic Cabin & A-Frame Luxury Tent hideaway, we had to hear more.
We’ve been visiting the White Mountains in New Hampshire for well over 15 years now.
Up until recently Mackenzie’s grandparents owned a home in Franconia, overlooking Cannon Mountain.
We’ve spent countless weekends skiing, hiking, canoeing, and taking in all that the White Mountains have to offer.
It remains one of our family’s favorite places to visit in all of New England.
So without further ado, here’s a Stay New England exclusive interview with Boris and Susan – owners of the Lumen Nature Retreat!
Interview with the Owners
// Exclusive Stay New England interview with Boris Mordkovich and Susan Zhao, owners of the Lumen Nature Retreat located in the White Mountains, New Hampshire //
Hello! Tell us little about yourself.
We’re Boris and Susan (with a whole team of great folks behind the scenes)!
We have a beautiful 3-year old daughter, Hailey, and have been working together to create and develop Lumen Nature Retreat over the last 2 years.
Were you in the hospitality business before? If not, what did you do?
In a way.
From 2017, we’ve started to purchase, renovate and operate short-term rental and vacation rental properties in New England and the Midwest.
We started on a really small scale with just a single condo and slowly grew that over the years.
That whole experience was invaluable because, by the time we started to plan and work on the Lumen Nature Retreat, we already had a lot of the systems and processes in place on how to operate a hospitality business.
So while Lumen was a very different scale and brought its own set of challenges, it was also quite familiar.
That said, going back even further, we’ve come from very different professional backgrounds.
Susan spent years handling marketing for a large high-tech company and I’ve founded (and still operate) an electric bike company.
What inspired you to open a Luxury Glamping / Cabin Experience? Take us through the early days. What was that like?
It’s also a bit of an ironic one because we didn’t necessarily grow up with camping as a regular activity.
The seed for the idea came in 2018.
That year, we took a sabbatical from work and decided to do one of the things we’ve talked about for years.
We’ve bought a 20-year old Toyota Land Cruiser, put a tent on the roof and a small kitchen and storage in the back, and headed out on a 20,000 overland trip from Boston to Argentina.
It was an epic adventure for us.
During the 7-month trip, we traveled through more than a dozen countries and camped out in the most amazing, wild, and unexpected places.
It was those camping experiences – when we’d find a secluded, beautiful place, setup our tent, cook dinner and just chat or read outside into the evening – that was among the most memorable experiences of that trip.
Even when we came back to New England, we kept reminiscing about all of those camping experiences and looking for opportunities to recreate some of that magic back home.
You’re on an elevator. Doors open in less than a minute. How do you describe Lumen Nature Retreat to the person standing next to you?
Lumen is a unique accommodation experience in the White Mountains that allows you to spend time immersed in nature and connect to the people you love.
It feels like one part glamping, one part boutique hotel experience.
Think fully equipped, luxury bedroom in nature meets campfire, stars, sauna, chatting with your friends and family into the night.
Why The White Mountains? What makes it such a special place?
So many reasons!
We love the four seasons aspect of it.
There are so many varying activities available for each season and it’s really the perfect microcosm of being able to appreciate the seasonality of where we live.
We live in Boston ourselves, so being able to go there for a day trip as easily as we could for a multi-day trip is really wonderful. And, of course, it draws in visitors from all over New England itself because it’s fairly easy to get to.
The beauty of the place itself.
We’re obviously biased about the location where Lumen is, but it’s really a very special place and you can see that the moment you arrive. With the mountains in the background and a gorgeous pond and brook right at your campsites, it simply cannot be beat.
What’s the best part of owning a Nature Retreat? The worst part?
It’s quite wonderful to see what guests say after they spend a night or a weekend at Lumen.
For many people, especially if they live in a city and have a stressful job, this is an easy, simple way to have some downtime, reconnect with themselves and others, and just take a moment to sit by a brook, read a book and have no commitments for a day.
For families, we can see that this is becoming an annual tradition with people bringing their family every year.
For a lot of people, coming to Lumen becomes the destination itself because even though there are a myriad of activities within a 10-minute drive, people are just as happy to kick back and relax on the property.
As for the worst part – there isn’t really one.
It’s hard to develop and build. There are definitely operational challenges and stresses that come with running a complex business with a lot of moving parts. But all of these things pass – so we try to keep all of the difficult parts in perspective.
What are you most excited about right now with your business?
We love the team that we’ve built out at Lumen that keeps everything running and operational.
It takes a lot of people behind the scenes to ensure that everything is perfect every single day and we’re very fortunate to have a dedicated, great group of people working towards that.
So, with that, we can now re-focus on some of the more strategic elements – how can we keep improving the experience for the guests and potential ways that we can expand in the future.
What’s the most unusual/bizarre request you’ve gotten from a guest?
One thing that Lumen has evolved to organically is that it has become a popular destination for marriage proposals and elopements.
We regularly get inquiries from folks who are looking to propose and photographers who are looking to do elopement shoots on the property.
We’re always super happy to accommodate both and really love these sort of experiences.
When you next have time off, where will you be?
In the Winter, we usually try to carve out a few weeks or a month to go somewhere warm – last year, we were fortunate enough to go to Bali.
Next year, we’re hoping to spend a bit of time in Mexico. With a 3-year old in tow, this sort of a mid-winter break is always nice and appreciated!
What’s the future hold?
For now, we’re still focusing on improving the property and the overall guest experience. There is a long-list of projects we want to accomplish this year and in 2024.
Beyond that, time will tell. If things continue to go well, we may consider doing another location in New England – but we try to take this one year at a time.
Where can we go to learn more?
Behind the Scenes
One of my favorite things to see when learning about a place is “the before”.
The made up, done up, polished, professional “after” photos have their place of course.
But give me the early days. Sleeves rolled. Tools out. Ladders up.
That’s the good stuff.
So I asked Boris and Susan if they could share some behind the scenes shots during the building phase of the Lumen Nature Retreat.
They didn’t disappoint! Here’s what they sent me: