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Orvis: An American Legacy in Outdoor Sporting Goods

A Historical Journey of Success

Orvis, a renowned American family-owned retail and mail-order business, has a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis. Specializing in fly fishing, hunting, and sporting goods, Orvis holds the distinction of being the oldest mail-order retailer in the United States. Over the years, the company has expanded its operations, operating numerous retail stores in the US and the UK. Today, Orvis continues to thrive under the leadership of Simon Perkins, who took over as president in 2020.

A Testament to Innovation and Quality

Orvis has cemented its position in the industry through its commitment to innovation and quality. In the late 19th century, Charles Orvis revolutionized fly reel design, creating the first fully modern fly reel. His daughter, Mary Orvis Marbury, made significant contributions to the fly department and published an influential book on fly patterns and their histories. Under the ownership of Dudley Corkran, Orvis experienced a period of revitalization, introducing impervious bamboo rods and competing in the evolving fishing rod market.

Expanding the Brand and Embracing Conservation

One of the pivotal moments in Orvis’s history was its purchase by the Perkins family in 1965. Leigh H. Perkins recognized the potential to transform Orvis into an all-encompassing brand synonymous with fly fishing and an outdoor lifestyle. Perkins expanded the product line to include gifts and clothing, successfully broadening Orvis’s appeal. Furthermore, Orvis became a pioneer in conservation efforts, donating a percentage of profits to wildlife and environmental organizations.

Building a Lasting Legacy

Under the leadership of Leigh Perkins’s sons, Orvis experienced exponential growth, surpassing $90 million in annual sales and employing over 700 individuals. However, the company also faced a corporate identity crisis due to its acquisitions of other firms. A rebranding effort was initiated in 2000 to focus Orvis’s image as a distinctive outdoor lifestyle brand. Today, the company continues its commitment to providing high-quality fly rods, reels, and outdoor gear while maintaining its dedication to conservation and promoting a love for the great outdoors.


The Orvis story is one of resilience, innovation, and a commitment to the outdoors. From its humble beginnings as a tackle shop in Vermont to becoming a renowned global brand, Orvis has left an indelible mark on the world of fly fishing and sporting goods. Through its dedication to quality products, conservation efforts, and a rich heritage, Orvis continues to inspire and equip outdoor enthusiasts worldwide.

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