The man who transformed the Vermont-based Orvis company from a niche fly-fishing supply company to a global retailer of outdoor supplies, apparel and environmental protectors has died.
An online tribute published on the company’s website stated that Perkins was a lifelong outsider who spent more than 250 days hunting or eating fish in his 90s with a reverence for nature and conservation.
The company says Perkins began donating 5% of the pre-tax profit for the conservation of fish and wildlife.
While Orvis is based in Sunderland, not far from the headwaters of Baton Kill – one of the most famous trout streams in the state – the company has worldwide reach.
“He followed the stick that flew to all corners of the world and he built relationships and connections to both places and people around the world,” said Simon Perkins, grandson of Leah Perkins and current president of Orvis on Tuesday .
Simon Perkins is the third generation of his family to lead the company.
Christopher Saunders, a project coordinator for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, who describes himself as a passionate fly fisherman, said Leah Perkins’ legacy owes much to the sport of both fly fishing and Vermont.
Saunders said Vermont was a stronghold of the fly fishing industry, but the world’s attention shifted to the West over the years. Perkins in Vermont ensured that fishing was prominent.
“To this day people still make pilgrimages to Orvis and fly fish to Baton Kill River and the surrounding areas,” Saunders said.
“Clearly he was committed to more than the bottom line,” Saunders said. “There was a lot of focus on education.”
In 1966, Perkins started what the company describes as the world’s first fly-fishing schools, first in Vermont and then elsewhere. Saunders said those schools helped bring in thousands of anglers to catch fish.
Perkins was born in Cleveland in 1927, but went to college in Western Massachusetts. His mother inspired him with a love of the outdoors and hunting and fishing.
Orvis, founded in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis, was a niche business with 20 employees and $ 500,000 in annual sales when Perkins bought it in 1965. Over the next 27 years, Perkins transformed it into a retail and mail-order business with sales. Above $ 90 million.
Since then, the company estimates that it has grown four times.
Perkins is survived by his wife Annie, four children, several stepchildren, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.