Before it was the beautiful destination that it is today, the High Star Ranch was a quiet obscure place off the beaten path.
One might have asked, “Is the Kamas Valley too far to go for a luxury stay, a world class concert venue, or great dining?” In other words, “If we build it, will they come?” The founders and management of the property took a chance on that sentiment hoping that “If we build it, they will come!”
From an office overlooking the Kamas Valley, Mr. Tom Grimmett, Trustee for High Star, and Tom Schiemer, Director of Multi-Media, shares their insights on the 17 years of work and development that has gone into creating this one-of-a-kind destination. They also spoke candidly about what they’d like the world to know about the property, as well as what they hope their community will understand about their genuine commitment to their neighbors.
For a little back history, Tom Grimmett shares, “The High Star Ranch, with its World Class DeJoria Center, as it’s now constituted, was the brainchild of Jack and Louise Mahoney who came to the Kamas Valley after a successful career running restaurants in California.” When the Mahoney’s arrived in Kamas they found two beautiful, historic ranches that sat side by side on Hwy 32: The S Bar S Ranch, founded by John Simpson, and the High Star Ranch, owned by the Fitzgerald family. The Mahoney’s saw an opportunity and purchased the properties in 2005 which was annexed into Kamas City. Unfortunately, the real estate crash of 2008 disrupted all momentum and values plummeted. Jack Mahoney was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which severely limited his ability to manage his investment. The banks got nervous and the property was in jeopardy.
Mr. Mahoney’s good friend, Mr. John Paul DeJoria, a well-known business mogul and taste-maker for luxury brands, looked at the project to see what could be done and if the investment could weather the storm. In spite of the many risks, Mr. DeJoria acquired the property and appointed his long-time accountant, friend, and former federal banker, Mr. Tom Grimmett, as Trustee and Manager. The High Star Ranch, with all its amenities and housing, is what it is today because of Mr. Grimmett. As a resident of the Kamas Valley for over 15 years, Tom Grimmett is committed to not only overseeing and protecting
Mr. DeJoria’s investment, but also to creating something the locals can be proud of. He has been, and continues to be, determined, “to do the very best for the community” even when the vision may not always be fully understood.
An Ingenious Renovation
The vision to create something truly unique in Eastern Summit County came to fruition with the renovation of an existing hay barn. With the understanding of how music and the arts open doors, the first order of business was to transform the old building into an incredible events center. The DeJoria Center was completed early in the process and was meant to provide an intimate entertainment and event venue. It was a success and the concert venue received the prestigious, ENR Mountain States 2016 Regional Best Projects Award of Merit: Renovation/Restoration; competing against multiple remodeled projects across the intermountain west. With its stage, full lighting mechanics, video camera system, and state of the art sound system, The DeJoria Center has become a favorite destination for weddings, corporate events, and especially the concerts that host about 15 to 20 major artists each year.
Mr. Grimmett explains, “We knew that we had the distinctive challenge of building a venue in a cow pasture in Kamas, and somehow we’d have to attract people up here from Salt Lake, so it all had to be ‘above and beyond.’” Going above and beyond has paid off. In 2020 the DeJoria Center was honored with an Academy of Country Music Awards nomination for Theater of the Year. Mr. DeJoria’s name, reputation, and credibility have made it easy to entice great talent to the Kamas Valley. There are immediate advantages to performing in such an intimate space. The DeJoria Center can seat up to 1320 maximum guests, which means “even the back row is one of the best seats in the house compared to other venues.” Tom Schiemer shares, “People can come to great concerts for not a lot of money and really enjoy the close and personal performances.”
A Commitment to Kamas Valley
After The DeJoria Center was established, development of High Star Ranch began. Once it started the demand for homes in both the Thorn Creek and Spring Hill neighborhoods was instant. “We’ve sold 40 homes [in Thorn Creek] over the last 18 months. We would sell more, but we don’t have any more until we get our next plat approved by the city,” Grimmett shares. Tom Schiemer adds, “There are 8 Spring Hill Lots sold with 10 more available, then we’ll be building The Ranch Center, then the Wasatch View neighborhood.” These new custom home sites lie to the north of the DeJoria Center. Tom Grimmett explains, “There will be an HOA and design committee” to oversee the custom homes. “I want people to come out here 30 years from now and say, ‘look at these beautiful homes.’” The aesthetics of the High Star Ranch will be protected and consistent.
Mr. Grimmett grew up in a small town in Idaho and understands the challenges for locals. “When we first arrived, we understood the difficulty of seeing things change and grow […] but we continue to strive to be good neighbors as we add, not just restaurants, free summer concerts, activities, and sponsorship, but also a significant increase to the Kamas City coffers themselves through the tax base and development increase on every home built on High Star Ranch.” Tom Schiemer adds, “What I love personally, that I think is helpful for people to understand, is that out of the 1200 plus acres that we have available on High Star Ranch, only 30 percent is going to be used on building homes, and the other 70 percent of our land is in an agricultural, conservation, and greenbelt easement.” In other words, “what you see now, that we’ve already built, and those home sites presently in the works […] it’s never going to change after that. We’re not going to overtake the natural beauty of the land.” Tom Grimmett adds, “Yes, even though the original entitlements allowed us to build homes further up the mountain, we gave that away.”
Hunting, Fishing, Horseback Riding
What’s really impressive is the way that High Star Ranch has not only built a beautiful community for its residents, but it has also kept its gates OPEN. The public is welcome to come and enjoy the trails, the mountain access, the events, and activities provided by High Star Ranch and its affiliate, Rhodes Valley Outfitters. Bikers, Hikers, and Equestrians each enjoy their own set of trails, keeping the experience both customized and safe for all. “We have mountain bike trails with a brand-new parking lot just for the mountain bikers,” Grimmett continues, “They can now take the new road right to the trail head, park, and get on their bikes, going right up into the Mountain.” The canal trail will remain open to hikers and bicycles as a part of Kamas City; however, the canal company and conservation area regulations have restricted motorized vehicles. With that in mind, there are still many ways to enjoy the mountain all year long.
Rhodes Valley Outfitters
As the only licensed outfitter in northern Utah, Rhodes Valley Outfitters at High Star Ranch can lead activities and hunts in multiple areas for deer, elk, bobcat, and bear all over the state. They have a concession on a 7 mile stretch of the Duchesne River for the best fly fishing in Utah, and a concession for horseback riding on Antelope Island in addition to rides on the Kamas property. Grimmett shares, “You can do a 3-4 hour ride on a horse right at the High Star Ranch and experience amazing 360 degree views due to the altitude. You can see forever and it’ll never change. It climbs from a base of 6400 feet up to 8500 foot views in the old growth pine trees. It’s just beautiful.”
Other amenities include a new club house, pool, and fishing ponds for the residents. A vintage and specialty automobile museum, curated by local collectors, is also in the works. In addition, some winters allow for packed and groomed cross country skiing right on the property. For meals and hospitality, visitors can enjoy the menu and beverages at the State Road Tavern upstairs and the newly added Country Store and Café with made-to-order breakfasts, lunch, snacks, hot coffee, or cold drinks.
Concerts will resume again in January, and the property will continue to welcome the public through its gates for more friendly hospitality, entertainment, and experiences.
Giving Back to the Community
When asked how High Star has stayed involved in giving back to local residents of the Valley, Tom Schiemer explains, “During the summer we host a free Summer Concert Series provided by Mountain Town Music. There is also a Poker ride guided by Rhodes Valley Outfitters with a wonderful horseback tour through the property.” The High Star Ranch remains committed to creating opportunities for the public to continue to enjoy the shared space on the mountain in a variety of ways.
Tom Grimmett shares that, “We want to give [everyone] that come’s through the gates the best possible experience for whatever they come here to do. If they come for dinner, we want them to have the best food and service; if they come for a concert, we want them to have a great time; or to find a house and community to call home.” Tom Schiemer adds, “Our goal is to invite all the neighboring communities to come and see what we’ve created here and enjoy the venue, the views, and the arts.”
When asked about balancing his role as Trustee and resident of Kamas Valley, Mr. Grimmett states that, “I do feel a fiduciary responsibility to the whole valley. We’re one of the biggest businesses here. We are mindful of our community and the presence we have here.” Overall, both Grimmett and Schiemer agree that the stewardship and responsibility they have, from both a capitalistic and good neighbor view point, play a big part in every decision they make. They both share the desire to create something so spectacular that people will come from all over, but that locals will be proud of and excited about too. Perhaps, one of the most impressive things about High Star Ranch is their commitment to keeping their doors open for everyone to enjoy all they offer. Mr. Grimmett shares, “The more good we do, slowly people are being proud to have us here. The people in the valley are starting to say, ‘The High Star Ranch means something to us, and we can count on that’.