Posted on: Monday - Jul 17, 2017

It’s officially summer and for many of us, that means more time will be spent outdoors. Whether it’s on a boat with friends, at a ballfield watching your kids play or at a neighborhood barbecue, there’s a good chance you’ll need a steady supply of cold drinks to help battle that summer heat.

We can all agree that there’s nothing worse than sipping on a watered-down, warmer version of what was your cold, refreshing beverage just thirty minutes ago. Or opening a cooler you packed that morning only to find a collection of cans bobbing in a sea of melted ice. By that point, not only are you thirsty, but you’re also frustrated.

The team at ORCA, short for Outdoor Recreation Corporation of America, strives to make sure you don’t find yourself in that situation. Based in Nashville, ORCA specializes in manufacturing products for the outdoor enthusiast ranging from coolers to drinkware to accessories, like apparel and koozies.

If you’re in the market for a cooler, there are three things you need to know about ORCA:

1. 200 hours of cool
ORCA coolers have best in class ice retention, or what they like to call “200 hours of cool.” Third-party studies have been done to show performance in ice retention and ORCA consistently lands at the top of the list.

2. All ORCA hard-sided coolers are proudly made in the U.S.A.
ORCA has two manufacturing facilities – one in Nashville, the other in Streetsboro, Ohio – where all of their products are made.

3. ORCA coolers come with a lifetime warranty. Really.
In an era filled with fine print and exceptions, ORCA stands behind its coolers by offering a lifetime warranty with each one. That means, no matter what goes wrong, they’ll repair it or send you a new one.


John Hamilton
Brad Reed

The idea for ORCA came about less than five years ago, which is somewhat hard to believe based on the popularity of the brand. It’s hard to drive down the street without seeing an ORCA decal on the back of a car, or spotting that familiar whale tail on a cooler at a tailgate. Although the company is still relatively new, it has experienced tremendous growth in a short amount of time.

“When the company started, it was three guys who sat down at a Cracker Barrel and came up with the concept of making a cooler,” said Pat Doyle, director of marketing. “We were originally in a 27,000-square-foot facility with 20 employees total, and now we’re in a building that’s more than 150,000 square feet with over 100 employees. We’ve had a lot of growth, so we have a lot of new people, but we still have some of the same people who were with us from the very beginning.”

One of ORCA’s original team members is John Hamilton, who serves as the company’s plant supervisor. Hamilton’s primary role is to get production up and running, but he also has his hand in other departments as well like shipping, graphics and back office support. He explained that one of the biggest challenges he sees is also a good challenge to have. 

“One of our greatest challenges, if you can even call it that, is the growth of the company. It’s growing so quickly and we have to stay on top of it,” Hamilton said. “It’s definitely a good challenge to have and it’s a lot of fun. We have a great team and very supportive leadership.”

The growth that Hamilton refers to is easy to see while walking through the Nashville headquarters and manufacturing plant. The building is filled with team members assembling coolers, preparing drinkware for shipment or crafting custom pieces. ORCA offers a number of customizations for its products, which include putting text or images on a chaser or a logo on a cooler.

John Hamilton
Brad Reed

Brad Reed works in the graphics division of ORCA and specializes in printing the logos that go onto hard-sided coolers and the transfers that go onto the soft-sided coolers. Depending on the size of the order and the cooler, Reed himself can finish over 100 coolers in one day.

“At first, I did all of the graphics. It was just me for about two years, but this year it took off big time,” he said. “Now there are probably well over thirty of us in the graphics department.”

When it comes to logos, Reed says he prefers a challenge.

“The harder the logo, the better. It’s more challenging when you have a lot of gradients, lots of colors, or when it’s an image that fades from one color to another, like black to yellow,” he explained. “Projects like that are fun because you really have to pay attention and be on top of your game to get it right.”

ORCA is definitely getting it right when it comes to coolers. What started as an idea over a meal at Cracker Barrel in 2012 has since grown to become another Tennessee success story. And the team at ORCA is proud of what they make.

“It’s awesome to make something in Tennessee. I’m from East Tennessee, so I have a great sense of pride in what I do,” Reed said. “I’m the only one that puts the logo on a hard-sided cooler, so when I see them in a magazine or anywhere, I know that I was the one who did that.”

To learn more about the company or place an order, visit orcacoolers.com