Eye on Orvis–Orvis Dads #1: Steve Hemkens

Written by: Laurie Barrett

Steve and his boys, Luke (left) and Brett.

In honor of Father’s Day, the “Eye on Orvis” team sat down with some of the company’s dads, who talk about what it’s like to work for a family-owned organization that focuses on three core values—Surprise & Delight Your Customer, Take Pride in Your Product, and Protect What We Love—and how working for such a company has shaped their own lives and the generations that will follow them.

When most dads talk about fishing, they don’t focus on the fish they caught. Instead, they recall the people they were with, the places visited, lessons learned, and how everything tastes better when cooked over a campfire. Because as any good angler will tell you, “It ain’t really about fishin’.”   

Our first Orvis dad, Steve Hemkens, began his career with Orvis as a product developer nearly two decades ago, and years of dedication, hard work, and commitment earned Steve a spot on the Executive Leadership Team in 2014. In 2023, he was promoted to his current role as Orvis Vice President of Global Brand Strategy. Steve has managed the Orvis Adventures and wholesale divisions and has played an instrumental part in moving the Orvis brand forward in his time with the organization. There are a lot of years, and plenty of heart, in his story.

Steve has been hunting and fishing for as long as he can remember, as his father was a die-hard outdoorsman with a particular love for hunting dogs and fishing. Steve’s mother also played an active role in developing his love of fishing, bringing him and his brother to the pond while she read on the banks for hours. It became Steve’s dream to work in the fly-fishing industry, and he spent years working at fly shops, honing his knowledge and expertise.

In 2005, he traveled to Vermont for a friend’s wedding, where he met Orvis Chief Enthusiast Tom Rosenbauer, asking his advice about secret local fishing spots. Tom, sensing Steve’s passion for the sport, told him about a few positions open at the company. It wasn’t long before 25-year-old Steve relocated to the small town of Arlington, Vermont, to begin his amazing journey with Orvis. 

Steve has had the opportunity to fish with Perk Perkins in Wyoming and the Bahamas and hunt with Simon and Dave Perkins for sharptail grouse in Montana, yet he says that his most memorable moment with Orvis came from being part of the team that launched the first Helios™ fly-fishing rod. The launch of this rod cemented the role of Orvis as the most innovative company in the fly-fishing world.

Steve values the way that Orvis rewards curiosity, the willingness to be brave, and a belief and passion for your ideas. He speaks to the company leaders’ relentless commitment to conservation and to serving as advocates, always working to protect what they love. These are qualities Steve is passing on to his two boys, Brett and Luke, through teaching strong stewardship and getting involved in community efforts to protect the local natural resources.

Steve is also teaching his boys humility, a quality he has witnessed among members of the Perkins family. He fondly recalls the time when he was sitting at his desk, brand new to Orvis, and then-Vice Chairman Dave Perkins approached him and said, “Nancy’s out of town. You want to go fishing?” That was when Steve first realized that the owners of the company treat their associates like extended members of their own family. He also discovered that, at Orvis, no matter your title, you take the time to fill the coffee pot when it’s empty. Decades later, when Steve was promoted to his current role, the offer came not at a formal meeting, but over lunch on the bank of a trout steam.

As we finished our discussion, Steve again spoke of Orvis as having an elevated approach: creating signature moments when dealing with customers and associates; always leaving the campsite better than you found it; and understanding that we have an obligation to protect the planet we so greatly impact. It is all of these things Steve is working to pass on to his own children and the generations that will follow them.

Laurie Barrett is the National Recruiting Specialist for Orvis.

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