October 2000) After eight years, Miniature World Closes. Located in Old Town St. Charles, a tourist area, the museum fared well during the Summer. As soon as school started, the tourists stopped coming. Then we discovered a rule that we never realized. Locals do not attend their own attractions! The displays were reclaimed by their two owners. Ralph Koebbeman returned his displays to Rockford, Illinois, where they are currently on display in his basement. (Open by appointment only). Bob Letterman moved his half of the collection to the VLS facility where they were on display for his customers.
November 2000) VLS Creations, the new name for our production division, then had 6 sub divisions, Warriors, Custom Dioramics, Techstar, Legends & Lore, Letterman Publications and VLS Brushes.
January 2001) VLS Creations released its new Full Color Catalog, vol.2, its 2001 Wholesale and 2001 Mail Order catalogs.
March 2001) At this point, Warriors had increased in sales to then rank number 1 among all lines that VLS offers. Custom Dioramics was at No. 7. Letterman Publications at No.18.
August 2001) Mastercon 10 was the best yet! Special guests from the world over in attendance. New trophies this year. Now gold, silver & bronze are cast in metal with ribbons attached in a black velvet presentation case.
September 2001) The terrible events in New York , Washington D.C. and Pennyslvania that we are now so familiar with had a devastating effect on sales that month which was to be expected.
November 2001) Sales of our production companies had grown to where they accounted for 28% of total VLS revenues. Warriors, for over 2 years a separate corporation, had then been merged with the parent VLS Corporation. Chris Mrosko traded his Shares in Warriors for a same dollar amount in VLS shares, becoming a junior partner and 3rd Vice President of VLS.
March 2002) VLS launched 3 new production companies, Trakz, which would manufacture armor products only, Wingz, aircraft only and Lincoln County Line Discount Miniatures, which would feature all categories of model products at a lower than average price.
May 2002) VLS launched a new website, modelmecca.com. A new e-mail address was phased in as well, firstname.lastname@example.org. The site features a shopping cart, 9 criteria search capabilities, secure web transactions, message board, Gallery, promotions, sales, and much more. E-commerce doubled the first month it was up and running.
September 2002) Mastercon XI was the most enjoyable Mastercon ever. That was the opinion of the vast majority of attendees, not to mention the VLS Staff! Once again special guests from around the world attended. Doug Lee from Korea walked away with so many trophies, he needed a truck to carry them! At the show, VLS released the European trolley and the modelers were quite surprised at the incredible detail and fit of the parts for such a complicated subject. Even a couple of our competitors who had seen it complimented us on both our choice of subject and it's execution! Ben Jakobsen, of Canada, one of our Premier designers was the pattern maker! It is easy to see the Trolley was a labor of love. Congratulations, Ben!
October 2002) October 7, Jos Stok, one of the three original partners passes away. VLS had been distributing his company's products, Stok Verlinden II, up to the time of his death. He will be remembered.
December 2002) Web Sales had risen over 500% since the new site went on line in May. The improvements to the site continued monthly. VLS launched another new site for hobby shops only, legacydistributing.com. You had to have a dealer code to access it. VLS launched another new product line in October, the 135th Construction Battalion. It would specialize in construction materials, equipment and figures that are working on construction projects.
February 2003) Our new 2003 catalogs were in the mail. The new VLS Creations catalog marks the fourth year in print and features over 1000 products. VLS had reorganized its buying clubs and introduced The Modelers Guild, which replaces the Winners Club. This program made an affordable membership with more perks than the club it supercedes, available to everybody. VLS Creations and the web site growth have soared. Our staff talked to hundreds of hobby shops across the country daily and they told us they were still down due to the economy.
March 2003) VLS Creations, at this point has 9 manufacturing companies and, now adding the newest companies, Fanta-Z, which would strictly manufacturer fantasy items in 1/32 scale, and 5 Star tools, which would market a new line of specialized tools, made it an even 11! VLS Creations products total over 1000 active items. Combined, they accounted for 30% of total VLS sales. Of all the lines carried throughout the 20 year VLS history, no other line had came near that percentage.
May 2003) There were three bright spots on the horizon. Our E commerce business from Modelmecca.com was booming. The new Legacy Distributing web site was catching on with hobby shops around the world. Orders from both sites continued to increase. Our production business (VLS Creations) was really doing well, especially in Europe and Asia. That May was up in foreign sales over the previous May by 165% and climbing. The Modeler's Guild membership then stood at over 800. In this industry, that is a considerable number for only three months the program had been available.
June 2003) With Dave Harper's 4 new books on the LVTs, Letterman Publications was moving along nicely. Several other books were in the works, including Bob Letterman's Superdioramas 2. Unfortunately, he no longer had time to spend on those monsters as he once had, but he was still plodding along, and sooner or later..... Mastercon 12 was going to be the best ever. Guests include Sheperd Paine, "The Man" of our modeling world, Pietro Balloni and Andrea Jula, of Pegaso Models in Italy, and both are at the summit of the sculpting and painting talent in the historical miniatures field! Doug Cohen, another top name in that league, would be attending, and Doug, Pietro and Andrea would be giving seminars! Many other modeling celebrities would be there as well!
July 2003) July saw the introduction of 5 Star Tools, VLS' latest product line at the time. The first product was a punch and die set that was actually designed two years prior, but had been on hold for the best machining company. A new Track Jig was to be released shortly, and a revolutionary mechanical punch machine with sets of punches and dies sold separately. Many more model tools to come.
September 2003)Mastercon 12 was a great show. The talent that had emerged from the regulars was astonishing! Many of these guys have evolved into true masters! Our theory is they continually grow because it was one of the rare shows or forums where everyone was comfortable and felt they were part of the show, and of course, they were. The comaraderie was something really special that you would have a difficult time finding elsewhere. We are very proud of them all!
December 2003)Our production unit had been completely reorganized. The continuously increasing volumn of orders, especially from Europe almost overwhelmed us. We had successfully doubled our output of a few months earlier. We were preparing to launch a new series of reference books. Called AFVisuals, the first two releases would be "Pacific Focus" and "The M-36 Jackson". They will be followed by "The M-3 Lee" and "Late War US Armor". This series would be published two books each quarter.
March 2004)We had been working on a project to increase our web presence. First, we had our webmaster creating a link page which will eventually link to all the sites on which we are a sponsor. We were negotiating with Gordon Stronach to become the "Planet" series of sites dominant sponsor. All these, Planetfigure.com, Planetaircraft.com, Planetarmor.com and Planetdiorama.com, were quickly becoming favorites to modelers everywhere. We would advertise on Perth Military Modelling site, WW II Modelmaker, Hyperscale, Track-link and Armorama. We chose the above sites for their integrity, honesty and, most of all, their impartiality to all companies and all modelers. Unfortunately, there are sites that seem to exist for the sole purpose of attacking everybody and everthing, nonstop!
July 2004) Heidi Hogan, a Sales representative for almost 5 years was promoted to Sales Manager. VLS had been reorganizing over the last year, one department at a time. The Packaging Department employees now work directly under The president of the company.
September 2004)Mastercon 13 was, in a word, great! We had moved it to Lincoln County at the Woods Fort Country Club. The club was a new, spacious and scenic location. It has three times the space of the previous convention area. There was nothing but praise from everybody in attendance.
December 2004)Sales from the web and the retail division were steady with some small improvements here and there. Production sales to distributors were excellent! The slump was from wholesale. Shops continued to report that sales were down. There are always exceptions to every rule, but generally, down. We were installing a new feature of the modelmecca site. We would have 2-3 surveys each year for VLS buyer's club customers. It would be a two page form that could be accessed using your customer number. It will give us a running feedback on service, new proprietary products as well as new lines our customers wished us to pick up. As soon as that was up and running, we installed similar features in our other sites, including Legacy Distributing!
March 2005) VLS opened it's E-BAY Stores. (See links on home page).
April 2005) VLS had the best sales month in almost two years this March. In February, we began contacting shops that haven't done business with us in some time. Surprisingly, a very large percentage of them were no longer in business. However, many of the ones who are still there are now ordering from us again. We have done the same with distributors as well and that too has helped the improvement in sales. April was going very well too. We had made several improvements on the modelmecca and Legacydistributing web sites, including a discussion forum that references new products and prototypes, a survey and survey results system that will be open twice a year. We had also improved our graphics on various pages.
May 2005)Over the last few years, VLS Creations have added 5 Star Tools, VLS Brushes, Fanta-Z and finally Streets of Laredo for a total of 15 Production Companies.
July 2005) Heidi Hogan, our sales manager was promoted into the vacancy. She hit the ground running and never missed a beat, we are fortunate to have people like her!
August 2005)Bob was given The Phillip Stearns Award for Lifetime Achievment at World Expo in Boston.
September 2005) Mastercon XIV was great as usual. There were some rule changes voted on by the attendees which will be in effect at Mastercon XV.
July 2006) The VLS Crew attended the IPMS National Convention in Kansas City. Many of the local chapter are not only long time customers but friends as well. It was Bob Letterman's first visit to the Nationals for 15 years. He had a display of his dioramas located between the competition and the vendor areas. He was reacquainted with many old friends he had not seen for a couple of decades. All enjoyed the show very much, Great bunch of guys, the KC Chapter!!
September 2006) Mastercon goes very well, attendance down because of IPMS National in Missouri in the same month. An interesting visitor. Mike McMahon, the new owner of MMD/Squadron and his number 2 man, Chuck Harransky attend Mastercon, but with a different purpose. He is interested in buying VLS, lock, stock and barrel. Bob and Susan are interested as well because they have been dreaming of retirement and wondering if it was out of their reach.
The negotiations move steadily toward resolution. The contract was signed for the purchase early in the month and closing set for January 1, 2007.
The closing is final and MMD/Squadron now owns The VLS Corporation. It will remain in Moscow Mills for several months and eventually moved to Carrolton Texas. Bob, Susan and the remaining staff will continue to operate it while in Missouri. Several of the staff members will work for VLS after it is moved. Bob and Susan will continue to represent VLS, as well as other projects such as box art and writing books for MMD. Two months after the move, they will retire as the affiliation with VLS/MMD is a part time responsibility. Thus ends 25 years of ownership of VLS by the Lettermans. The new owner, Mike McMahon, has the resources to take the company to new heights, and we will all be watching and supporting his efforts.
April 2007) VLS has now completed moving to Carrolton, Texas. Susan and Bob will be attending Squadron Scalefest on May 26th.
November2007) Bob & Susan have completed the museum. They have been completely retired since June. Now that the museum is complete, there will be time to update the website.
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