Leigh Perkins, Who Built Orvis Into a Lifestyle Brand, Dies at 93
In the 1980s, Orvis expanded beyond waders and shotguns to offer women’s apparel and lifestyle items. The catalog also included etched whiskey tumblers, telephones shaped like duck decoys and even fatwood kindling, inspired by the trees on Mr. Perkins’s Florida property.
Dog beds were particularly popular, as were weatherproof jackets from the English apparel maker Barbour, which became de rigueur foul-weather wear for white-collar workers in Midtown Manhattan. Some die-hard sporting customers complained, but the business continued to grow.
Mr. Perkins insisted on conservationism as a company value, donating to wildlife organizations before such practices were widespread.
“It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good business,” Simon Perkins said. “If people don’t have places to fish or hunt, you don’t have much of a future in the world of trying to sell fly fishing stuff.”
Mr. Perkins is survived by his third wife, Anne (Ireland) Perkins; three children from his first marriage, Leigh Jr., who goes by Perk, David and Molly Perkins; a daughter, Melissa McAvoy, from his second marriage, to Romi Myers; three stepchildren, Penny Mesic, Annie Ireland and Jamie Ireland; 11 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son from his first marriage, Ralph, died in 1969.
According to his son Perk, for Mr. Perkins fishing was not a competitive, but rather a restorative pursuit. Even into his 90s, Mr. Perkins still trundled down to the Battenkill on summer evenings — with a rod and a cocktail — to cast for trout as the sun went down.
“There is only one reason in the world to go fishing: to enjoy yourself,” Mr. Perkins told The New York Times in 1992. “Anything that detracts from enjoying yourself is to be avoided.”
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