Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sneaking into Orvis

Not your typical class A office space but class A none-the-less

Well we didn't exactly sneak. While almost every other member of the fly fishing industry (including our own correspondent Hilary) was busy at the IFTD show in Denver, Colorado drinking free beer checking out the newest gear and gadgets, we (the Editorial Trophy Wife and I) took it upon ourselves to do some hard core journalism and managed to gain access to the inner sanctum of one of the outdoor industry's largest players, Orvis. Our visit, courtesy of Orvis' Sr. Manager of Communications, Conservation, and Social Media, James Hathaway, confirmed a lot of what we already suspected about the company and also yielded a few revelations.

Located in Sunderland, Vermont and situated in a location that you would be hard pressed to find even with the aid of the most up to date navigation system, The Orvis Company's corporate office sits on a wooded mountainside. Upon entry into the unmarked lobby and signing the registry noting our US citizenship, we were issued our name tags and greeted by our host. James gave us the following tour of their offices. Note that before we could enter any area, James was required by corporate policy to go fifty paces ahead of us crying out "Blogger on the hall" so as to give the employees time to shape up.

One of our first stops on the tour was Perk Perkins' office. James would not let me take his picture sitting behind Mr. Perkins desk but he did let me hold the giant fly tied for the Orvis Giant Fly Sale Video by the legendary Tom Rosenbauer.

Our next stop was the Orvis commissary. Due to the remoteness of their offices, the company provides dining facilities. The employees do not eat for free nor does the menu consist entirely of venison and roast pheasant. In a definitive nod to conservation, no wild brook trout were on the menu the day of our visit.

This is a look inside one of Orvis' many sample rooms. Orvis maintains one of everything they carry on the premises with the idea being that if a customer calls up about a problem with a specific item, someone can walk down the hall and take a look first hand. Orvis also contacts any person leaving a rating of three out of five stars or less on their website's review system to try and resolve any issues. Since most of the fly fishing gear was out of the building and on display at the IFTD show, we were spared the mandatory pat down and moved on to the next part of the tour.

This is not the shotgun testing room (or so they told us).

We are posting these two photos for all who dream about escaping the corporate world and working in the fly fishing industry. This is fly fishing legend, Tom Rosenbauer's, cubicle. Also note that even fly fishing legends must complete the proper HR forms if they want to take a day off fishing.

For comparison here is Hathaway's cubicle. Note that the PR guy's cube is just as nice as the fly fishing legends. Just sayin'...

Our host, James, elicited this type of response in many of the departments we visited. These HR employees didn't like the fact that he questioned Rosenbauer's fishing absence request being denied.

The maintenance department gets the award for most "Orvislike" decor.

The Orvis Podcast Studio gets the award for least "Orvislike" decor. However, we checked the labels on the moving blankets on the wall and they were knitted from 100% Tibetan alpaca wool.

Now for one of the revelations we promised. We walked in on Hathaway working on something in the podcast studio that at the time of this writing, no one outside of the Orvis Company has seen (except for's readers).

A little surreptitious use of the zoom feature on our camera reveals a new website in the works., described as a news / uberblog site, should be launching in a few weeks. It will focus on stories rather than specific products and will feature content about fly fishing, dogs, hunting, and travel all in a central location and fulling integrated with social media. Orvis has always been one of the first to adopt new media trends and this site promises to keep them at the front of the pack.

This is less of a revelation but we also managed to get our hands on a 9 weight example of Orvis' newest fly rod, the Access. The Access is a $350 -$450 price point version of Orvis' highly popular Helios fly rod. It uses much of the same carbon fiber technology and upon casting, although a bit heavier, feels a lot like its pricier cousin. Think of it like driving a Porsche on Volkswagen money.

Hathaway explaining some of the features of the new product line. I am thinking "that sure is a big reel for wild brook trout."

Hathaway and I discussing how this product can even make my casting style look good.

Rumor has it that if you pull the fly rod from this stone in Manchester, VT you will be crowned the next Lefty Kreh.

With that we ended our inside look at the Orvis corporate offices. Thanks to James Hathaway and all the Orvis employees who we managed to distract from their day to day hard work (including the President of the company in that important meeting, sorry James).
Contrary to our own popular belief, Orvis employees do not spend their days lounging by the corporate casting pond (they do have one) trying out all of the gear. They work hard, sit in cubicles, write copy, provide customer service and sell product. They make catalogs, run retail stores, manage dealer relationships, do podcasts and probably compile TPS reports. The company has donated ten million dollars over the last ten years to conservation related causes. That fact alone puts them pretty high up on our list.
Stay tuned for more from our visit to the Manchester, VT area including inside looks at the Orvis Flagship store, Orvis Outlet, and the American Museum of Fly Fishing.


SuzieQ said...

It's good to know Tom IS a true trout fisherman. The proof is in his office on the bookledge, right hand corner!

Murdock said...

Sharp eyes SuzieQ ...Sharp eyes!