Orvis marks 150 years
By STEPHEN SEITZ Staff Writer
Rutland Herald, Vermont
August 20, 2006
MANCHESTER, VT – In 1856, Charles Orvis opened a small shop in which he crafted fishing rods from bamboo.
Today, The Orvis Company is one of the world’s premiere sporting goods retailers, with stores all over the United States and the United Kingdom and 400 dealers worldwide. Its product lines range from fishing and hunting gear to clothing and accessories. It supports conservation efforts large and small, and it knows how to throw a celebration.
Traffic crawled along Route 7A Saturday as visitors descended on the Orvis flagship store to check out tent sales, attend fishing classes and hunting demonstrations, take a balloon ride and even see a live cheetah.
Peter and Donna Cronin brought their daughters to the store from Dorset with the intention of checking out the event.
“We’re staying the whole day,” said Peter. “This is a chance for the girls to see a live cheetah up close.”
Orvis supports the Cheetah Conservation Fund of Namibia, and the Columbus Zoo was on hand Saturday to show off a live cheetah.
As it turns out, the couple have another reason for spending the day around fishing equipment: “We met over fly fishing,” Donna said.
A mutual friend knew that each of them enjoyed the sport, and so Donna and Peter were invited for a day of fly fishing. They have been together ever since.
The Cronins are part of a fan base that has grown worldwide since Charles Orvis pioneered sales of his famous rods through the mail in the 19th century. His location, next to the Equinox Hotel, gave him access to well-heeled clientele. No doubt it didn’t hurt that Charles’ brother, Franklin, owned the hotel.
“Word got out that there was this craftsman making excellent fly rods,” company communications director James Hathaway said. “Charles’ customers went back to the city and told their friends, who wanted to try those rods. So the mail order part of the business was in place almost from the beginning.”
“Of course, Charles Orvis could never have foreseen the Internet or the fact that we now make our fly rods out of the same material used to make helicopter blades,” said Hathaway. “But I think he’d be happy with the way things turned out. He was a conservationist, and we give 5 percent of our pretax profits to conservation causes. We’re still making fly rods in Manchester.”
Locally, Orvis the company was the founding donor for the breast cancer survivors’ organization Casting for Recovery, which provides survivors with fly casting lessons, therapy sessions and weekends in the woods catching fish. The company has also been active in restoring the Battenkill River.
“We hope to bring back the brown trout population,” said Hathaway.
The company has recently expanded into real estate, joining with the international company Cushman Wakefield to form Orvis Cushman Wakefield.
“We sell high-end properties,” Hathaway said. “A lot of them have a trout stream running through.”
The Orvis celebration continues today through 6 p.m. with hot air balloon rides, bird dog demonstrations, free casting classes, tent sales, and food vendors. For more information, visit www.orvis.com
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