A Brief History Of Squadron
MMD – Squadron was started in Detroit, Michigan in 1968 by Mr. Jerry Campbell. Mr. Campbell was a history teacher and an accomplished modeler. It began as a traditional hobby shop called “The Squadron Shop” located at 23500 John R Street, Hazel Park, Michigan. Squadron began to slowly grow by being one of the first in the Hobby Industry to enter into the fledgling mail order business. Back then, the service phrase was please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery! Pages of “advertising” were purchased from magazines and columns listing items was how you would “browse” our offering, you would write your order and check then mail in your order through the US Postal service.
In 1970, Squadron rolled out its first true catalog (Volume 1, No. 1, 1970) called “The Squadron” with our iconic eagle logo. It was actually much more than a catalog. Being an early pioneer in the mail order business, the first catalog was actually a hybrid catalog/magazine. It contained not only items to purchase, but articles on how to use newly created aftermarket parts and the brief histories of an aircraft, ship, or piece of armor. The catalog at that time was not free, it was subscription based. With a cover price of sixty cents, you could purchase a 1 year subscription (4 issues) for $2.00! 1970 also brought many industry firsts with the introduction of our first proprietary products: Squadron Green Putty, Squadron Sheen, Squadron Magic Mask, and Squadron Sheet Styrene.
By 1971 we rolled out our second and third hobby stores, “Squadron Shop West” on the corner of Lasher and 7 Mile Road in Detroit, MI and “Squadron Shop Cleveland” at 5589 Pearl Rd, Parma, Ohio. Mr. Don Greer, our now famous artist, began working for us and we launched Squadron Signal Publications. Our first book was “Signal Aircraft No. One, Luftwaffe in Action” part number SS1001. Since that first book, to today, we have inspired and assisted modelers by selling over 13 million copies of Squadron Signal books all throughout the world.
MMD-Squadron has always been an innovator and strident supporter of the modeler and of the modeling industry. With this in mind the company reached out overseas, and was one of the first companies to introduce products never seen before in the United States. Our earliest offerings were decals from Denmark, France, and England. We also began importing other now iconic brands such as Hasegawa, Tamiya, Aoshima, LS, Italeri, Heller, Frog, and Airfix. We created “Squadron Armor Accessories” (the precursor to our True Details line). These items were displayed in our three hobby stores and listed in our “magalog”.
It is fun to note that in 1971, you could buy a Revell 1/48 scale B-25B for $3.50 and we would ship it to you for $0.60 using one of three credit cards available at the time: American Express, MasterCard International, and BankAmericard (the early beginnings of Visa International). We also first coined the phrase “Fastest Service in the World; Orders are Packed and Shipped Same Day”. Today we take this fact for granted, as we are still committed to this same level of service that we perform each and every day; but others in the internet world have “borrowed” our slogans…they say mimicry is the greatest form of flattery!
From 1972 – 1978 Squadron continued to grow its mail order business and opened another 12 hobby shops throughout the country: Washington DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Long Island, Boston, Philadelphia, and several others. These stores were prominently featured in our early catalogs and they were some of the best stocked stores of the time. Major changes occured in shipping; UPS began shipping to all of the lower 48 states in 1975 and Fed Ex began expanding in 1977. This greatly reduced the time it took to get model kits in the hands of modelers; 6-8 weeks became 1-2 weeks. The catalog industry was beginning to mature in the USA as a legitimate way to do business. Squadron responded by doing away with the quarterly “magalog” and replacing it with an annual catalog plus 12 monthly “Squadron Supplements” in 1976 that you could get for $5 per year. This familiar format would remain the same until 30 years later in 2006!
Between the stores, the ever expanding mail order business, our proprietary lines, and our often unique products from overseas; other hobby shops asked if they could buy from Squadron as well. This was the beginning of Military Model Distributors, Inc. fulfilling the needs of Squadron and of hobby stores alike beginning in 1977. This fundamentally changed the business and MMD-Squadron exploded onto the model scene in a new way. It also required a new facility to accommodate the rapid growth to come in both in sales and product expansion. In 1978 the Distribution Center and Headquarters moved to Carrollton, TX into the new 51,000 square foot building we still occupy today. At that time we only filled 1/3 of the building.
In 1979, Mr. Chuck Harransky joined the company as Vice President. Together, he and Mr. Campbell aggressively expanded the business by expanding the Squadron Product lines and greatly expanding the wholesale business. By 1985, with the mail order business at its peak, and strong expansion into the distribution/import business; the decision was made to close all of the Squadron Shops around the country. This was a very sad day for many of the local modelers who fondly remember those stores as evidenced today with customers reminiscing at trade shows and on blogs.
In came the 1990’s, and the internet was taking shape as the “new way” to do business; much like the mail order business model did some 2 decades earlier. Squadron was up to the challenge of this new found technology and launched its very first web site in 1993 followed by the sites current form launched in 1995. In 2003, after some 35 years of service, founder Jerry Campbell decided it was time to sell the business and MMD-Squadron was put up for sale. On November 18th, 2005, the business was sold to Mike McMahon and the companies: Squadron, Inc. Military Model Distributors, Inc. and Squadron Signal Publications, Inc. became MMD Holdings, LLC.
Immediately after purchasing MMD-Squadron, Mr. McMahon began to think of ways to refresh the company at all levels while maintaining the proud Squadron legacy of supporting the modeler and the industry. In 2006, the flyer went from a $5 subscription fee to free! In July of that year, the very first color catalog was delivered to our Squadron customers. We also launched a new toll free number (877-414-0434) that was truly open and staffed 24hrs per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year! We also deployed new technologies in all areas of the business, from manufacturing Squadron Products, developing Squadron Signal books, taking orders in the call center, printing, packing and shipping products to our customers while maintaining our world class service that is still THE standard in the industry.
In 2006, Squadron purchased Eagle Strike and AeroMaster decals from Gaston Bernal, expanding Squadron Products into the world of aftermarket decals.
In 2007, Squadron purchased VLS and Legacy Distributors from Bob Letterman. This purchase expanded Squadron Products into Warriors figures and aftermarket armor/diorama accessories. We also inherited an event called MasterCon. Mr. McMahon felt that this event was a special way to pull modelers together in order to share their passion for the hobby, as well as offer tips and tricks of the trade. We invite skilled experts from around the world annually to help expand our skills and to generally have a great time. Squadron renamed the event “Eagle Quest” and it has been a great hit each year.
Squadron has continuously evolved to serve the modeler. We have brought in additional product lines, expanded the many brands contained in our Squadron Product line and have greatly improved with overall expansion of content. We now offer both hard and soft cover volumes of our Squadron Signal Books.
In 2012 we have unveiled our newest way to communicate with our customers, our new website! This is the first major rewrite of our site since 1995. It incorporates all the modern expectations of an ecommerce site, including all the social media capabilities of Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube. We are providing content like no-one else can by featuring behind the scenes looks at factories, our own facilities, other modelers work, tips, techniques and sneak peeks at the newest products coming soon!
After 44 years of service you can count on Squadron to lead the industry into its next phase. Most of all, Squadron looks forward to serving ALL of your modeling needs into the next 50 years!