One of Orvis' best-selling products was dreamed up over lunch. In 1967, Orvis owner and President Leigh H. Perkins was at lunch in Manchester, Vermont's Coburn House hotel. A waitress named Mavis attracted Perkins's attention, thanks to her order-taking pencil. This wasn't an ordinary pencil -- it was attached to a tiny retractable reel and pinned to the front of her blouse. Mavis could pull the string, write down the order, let go and the pencil would roll back up, out of the way until she needed it next.
Perkins couldn't help but stare. He realized that this handy contraption could be adapted for sporting use, that every fly fisher in the world needed just such a gizmo to keep their nippers close at hand, without risk of losing them in the water. He decided to put his idea into action, and had small stainless-steel cylinders--proudly emblazoned with the Orvis logo and dubbed "Zingers"--made and placed in his store. Fishermen jumped on the product immediately, using them to hold not only their nippers, but also nets, flashlights, and water thermometers. They were an instant success and Orvis sold millions of the handy gadgets over the years. Orvis even developed a Zinger that contains a retractable tape measure, so that you can measure your fish before releasing it. Today, Orvis sells five different types of Zingers that serve a variety of purposes.
By the way, Perkins hired that waitress, who was a valued Orvis employee for years.