In 28 years at the company’s helm, he turned a small mail-order fishing tackle shop into a sporting brand with stores all over the country.
By Brian GallagherMay 15, 2021
Leigh H. Perkins, who built Orvis from a modest mail-order fishing tackle shop in Manchester, Vt., into one of America’s largest and most distinctive sporting lifestyle brands, with stores all over the country, died on May 7 at his home in Monticello, Fla. He was 93.
The cause was complications of a fall, said his grandson Simon Perkins, who now runs the company.
Founded in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis, the company is the oldest mail-order business in the United States. It was sending out catalogs before the Civil War and predated Sears, Roebuck by more than 20 years.
When Mr. Perkins bought Orvis for $400,000 in 1965, the company had 20 employees and had $500,000 in annual sales. When he stepped down 27 years later, in 1992 — turning the company over to his sons — Orvis had more than 700 employees and had sales of $90 million a year. Since then, Simon Perkins said, annual sales have quadrupled, and more than 2,000 people work for the company, which has a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.
Leigh Perkins was a model of his own ideal customer, hunting and fishing more than 250 days a year, and traveling to places like Iceland, Argentina, Botswana and Wyoming’s Star Valley, where he owned land with a trout stream running through it.