History of Squadron's Owner Brandon Lowe's Time in The Hobby Business
My name is Brandon Lowe and I am the new owner of Squadron. Many of you probably know most of the history of Squadron, such as that it was started in 1968 by Jerry Campbell in Detroit, MI. You probably are also familiar with the fact that he moved the company to Texas and that is where most people know Squadron to be located. In 2005 Jerry sold the company to Mike McMahon who owned and operated the company for several years after that. But what you might not know is what happened to Squadron in January 2021 and how did it get to Georgia?
Well, to start I will tell you that I am 37 years old and my wife Crystal, our three kids and I live in the north Georgia mountains in a small town named Ellijay. I am a hobbyist myself and I love building models and love the history behind them. My interest in hobbies started as a young boy when my grandfather gave me an H.O. Gauge train set for Christmas. I must have been around 8 years old maybe. My dad decided he would help me put the set together. It didn’t take long for that little train set to take up the entire upstairs bonus room in our house. I took a real interest in the scenery part of the train layout. I really enjoyed painting buildings and mountains and working with the trees and grass and setting up the scenes.
When I was 13 my uncle asked if I wanted to help him learn how to start selling things on the internet. My response was, Sure.... what is the internet? It was from that point that I started doing what would end up being what I did from then on, e-commerce. I worked for him selling small boats online for several years and my dad was manufacturing boats at a company called Caravelle Powerboats. He sold that company and he and I decided to go into business together. We knew we wanted something online and something fun. Remembering our train set we worked on together when I was younger we decided to start a hobby business. Shortly after we started we came across an online hobby store for sale that specialized in selling Ship Models. Considering dad made boats, I sold boats with my uncle, and much of my family was in the Navy... it seemed like the perfect fit for us to get our hobby business going. So, we bought this ship company, Trident Hobbies from Chris Decker in 2006. We called our store Free Time Hobbies and it was located in Americus, GA. In 2008 we decided to move to the mountains and moved the store to with us to Blue Ridge, GA. We actually were a wholesale customer of MMD / Squadron at the time and a good bit of our inventory came from there. So, we ended up knowing Squadron very well through the years.
In 2010 Free Time Hobbies purchased the business Pacific Front Hobbies from long time ship modeler Bill Gruner. Pacific Front was moved from Roseburg Oregon to Blue Ridge Georgia and combined with Free Time Hobbies.
In 2012 Blue Ridge Models was formed by the my Dad and I as a manufacturing outlet to produce resin ship models as an expansion of the Free Time Hobbies, primarily ship related, business. Later that year, we also purchased Yankee Modelworks and Midship Models, which was once a part of Trident Hobbies. Chris Decker retained Yankee Modelworks and Midship Models at the time he sold Trident Hobbies to us to focus on manufacturing. Chris later sold Yankee/Midship to Rick Menze, who ultimately sold it to us. Other brands that had previously been acquired by Chris and had been consolidated into Yankee included Blue Water Navy and Classic Warships (the kits, not the books). After we bought Yankee / Midship... we consolidated all brands involved into Blue Ridge Models.
Between 2008 and 2019 we also bought several non-model related businesses and ran them alongside Free Time Hobbies. These included 4nScale which was a N Scale Model Railroading Business. DieCastAlley.com, which focused on 1/64 Die Cast Cars. And finally eHobbies.com which was once a large multi-purpose hobby store selling everything from models to remote control cars to puzzles, games, and rockets. During this time, with all the different products we were offering we started getting requests for products from hobby stores and other dealers around the USA. We started Whitepath Distributors as a way to distribute certain products to other dealers.
In 2018 my oldest son, who was 6 at the time started racing 50cc dirt bikes. I found myself at the race track quite often and got interested in a business pertaining to racing. One thing led to another and we decided to sell our hobby store. Russ retired and I went on about my dirt bike business called www.motoprographics.com
Not long after this my dad called me and told me that Chris Decker had called him to say that Squadron had filed bankruptcy and that all of the assets were being sold off at auction. This was interesting news, but that's about all it was to me at the time. This was January 2021. Chris ended up winning the company at auction and moved Squadron to Atlanta, GA. After getting started he quickly realized that the company was really two companies. Squadron being one, and Military Model Distributors (MMD) being the other. Realizing he needed somebody to run the MMD wholesale side of the company he reached out to an old friend... Russ Lowe, my dad. Russ was interested but was obligated to stay out of the hobby industry for a few years from selling Free Time Hobbies. After some negotiating, all obligations were removed and instead of simply working for Chris, Russ offered to buy MMD from Chris and did so which allowed MMD to be a supplier not only to Chris Decker’s Squadron in 2021, but to Hobby Shops around the world once again. This was summer 2021.
I like to say that when my dad got to start playing with models again I got a little jealous... my graphics business was fine but when I would take my kids over to see my parents, Dad would be telling me about new kits coming out and I started to think I might like to get back in the hobby world again. Well, in November 2021 I called Chris and asked him to sell me everything he did not sell my dad. I bought everything and officially re-launched Squadron in my name on January 1, 2022.
Chris did not get Squadron Signal Publications at the auction. Lee Leibold is the one who bought that, but in March 2022 a deal was made and Squadron Signal Publications was also moved to Ellijay Georgia and was once again under the same roof as Squadron. At that point everything that used to be in TX was now in Georgia owned either by myself or my Dad.
At that point, I had more than enough to work with, but the opportunity came up for me to buy Gold Medal Models. A brand started many years ago by my good friend Loren Perry. I told Loren years ago that one day when he got ready to retire, that I would like the opportunity to buy the Gold Medal Models business from him so that I could continue offering the excellent ship model detail sets that he had created. Well, the time was 2022 and that was also added to the Squadron family.
When everything was purchased from the auction and then eventually moved here to Ellijay... it didn't necessarily mean I had everything I needed. For example, I own the trademark name and rights to all of the True Details brand but I didn't have any of the molds and masters for these products. Matthew Bole was the one who actually bought the physical assets for many of the products that Squadron produced. We ended up making a deal with Matthew and we were able to get all of the molds and things we need to start producing True Details again.
After putting humpty dumpty back together again and getting everything back under one roof on the retail and manufacturing side of Squadron, I felt like there was one more thing I would like to have back. This was Free Time Hobbies. When we sold Free Time Hobbies it was moved to Butner North Carolina. In November of 2022 we were able to reach a deal to buy Free Time Hobbies back and move it back to Ellijay. This included Free Time Hobbies, Blue Ridge Models, Pacific Front, Die Cast Alley, and the other forementioned brands, and even the new Hobby Swap website that was started after we sold and it was moved. After moving Free Time Hobbies back we decided to keep the websites separate, but at the same time merge them to run as one here in the warehouse for order fulfilment purposes.
When people ask me how things are going here and what our plans for the future are, I like to say that 2021 was spent moving and setting up as a new company. 2022 was mostly spent re-establishing the brands in the market and re-building some bridges that had previously been burned, and in 2023 we are full steam ahead adding new brands, having a more diverse selection of products than has been seen under any of our brands in many years and continuing to improve our customer service and customer satisfaction. I am very excited for what the future holds here at Squadron for all of our brands, shops, and more!
Helping Car, Airplane, Ship And Military Modelers Build Their Passion Since 1968
Since 1968, Squadron has prided itself on carrying the most detailed car, airplane, ship, and military model kits, from Revell, Academy, Hasegawa, Tamiya, Hobbyboss, Trumpeter and other scale model vendors. and a variety of accessories and tools for model building. We have 1/32 scale and larger models of almost every military and civilian aircraft from all era that took to the skies. From World War II aircraft, to modern F-35 Lightning fighter jets, we offer something for every scale modeler and model hobbyist, at every skill level. From the beginning model builder, to those experienced and looking for a challenge, Squadron has everything needed to build scale models and more.
Enthusiasts of military tanks, ships and AFV models will have a hard time choosing which scale military model to build next. Our extensive selection of model tanks and military vehicles representing military units around the world is unmatched by any other online retailer. Ship enthusiasts, take harbor – our selection of model warships, battleships, aircraft carriers, and submarine model kits from the leading manufacturers include a variety of historically accurate, incredibly detailed aircraft carrier, warships and more. And motor heads, fear not – our model car kits allow you to build replicas of your favorite automobiles.
Get The Right Modeling Supplies and Paint For Your Next Scale Model Project
Squadron has modeling supplies and tools for every phase of building your next car, airplane, military, figure or any other scale model project. We carry just about every kind of model glue, solvent ad putty needed to keep your model together and smooth/texture the surface of your model. Want to bring your model to life? We carry acrylic, enamel, and lacquer and other painting supplies and weathering sets from Vallejo, Tamiya, Microscale and other model supply vendors.
Squadron Mail Order & Beyond
Squadron truly offers something for everyone – from beginners to experts, from World War II aircraft to models of famous Science Fiction ships. Whatever you’re passionate about, Squadron offers it, shipping most orders within 24 hours and standing behind each and every product we sell.
We offer a variety of ways to order with us as well – browse our massive, constantly updated online hobby shop or contact us for assistance in finding the right model. Begin building awesome, accurate models today!
Squadron Shop - Retail Brick & Mortar
Squadron had retail shops, called the "Squadron Shop" years ago. There is no denying the fun and excitement of walking into a hobby shop and taking a look at all the model kits and accessories! Our "shop" is a working warehouse, BUT we have every intention of creating a walk-in retail space environment, perhaps called an "Open House", like Squadron had in Carrolton Texas, to where you will be able to walk into to our store and shop in person. More details on this coming in 2023.