An Interview with Mike Leo
Vice President of Operations, Ramsey Electronics
by Marvin Mallon
Ramsey Electronics is a leading
distributor of sophisticated
devices for both the hobbyist
and the electronic experimenter.
Located just south of Rochester, NY,
they serve this market both by catalog
as well as online sales. The business
was started in the early ‘70s by John
Ramsey while he was attending college.
As a youngster, he was always
interested in electronics, and built a
number of Heath kits and Knight-Kits.
Taking note of the interest in this type of
products, he began selling digital clock
kits and LED “blinky” kits. Both
technologies were new to the hobby.
He knew it was necessary to provide
more than just a bag of parts and
assembly instructions, so each of his kits
included the complete theory of operation, as well as circuit applications.
Customers took note that when
they built a Ramsey Kit they not only
ended up with a working product, but
also learned the entire circuit theory
and all of its applications. When
Heath and Knight-Kit closed their
doors in the mid ‘80s, Ramsey kit sales
skyrocketed. Hobbyists everywhere
looked forward to the next edition
of the “Ramsey Catalog” to see
what neat new products were
available. The catalog — originally
eight pages in black and white —
changed to spot color in the late ‘80s,
104 September 2007
and since 1994, it has been published
in full four-color offset.
In 2000, Mr. Ramsey retired from
the business for some long deserved
relaxation. Today, the company is
privately owned and operated by the
key management team that helped
make it successful over the past
several decades. Mike Leo is the
current Vice-President of Operations.
When interviewed for this column, he
replied to the following questions:
Marvin: Mike, what is your previous
history and experience in the electronics field? How far back does that go?
Mike: I go back to ninth grade when I
built my first five-tube superhet AM
radio kit! From there, it was the Knight-Kit Star Roamer SWL receiver and
even the Heathkit color TV. I will
never forget the absolute thrill I had
when I first turned those kits on and
they worked. It’s the same thrill we
always try to insure for all our
customers with our hobby kits. If we
have done that, we have succeeded!
MM: How large are the Ramsey
facilities? How many employees do
ML: We have an 11,000 square foot
facility that handles all of our
operations from design engineering to
shipping. From the original digital
clock and LED Blinky Kits of the ‘70s,
our product line has expanded to the
point where we now carry over 200
manufactured kits and products. We
currently have 20 plus employees,
some of whom have been with us for
more than two decades.
MM: What would you say is your most
popular product today?
ML: Actually, the most popular hobby
product we’ve ever released is also
one of our more recent. It’s our UP24
pressure sensor, and we’re really
proud of it. It can measure elevations
to accuracies of a third of an inch! It’s
proven to be extremely popular not
only for the hobbyist but for land
surveyors and other professionals. It’s
also one of the most complex kits we
have brought to the hobbyist. When
they get done putting one of these
together, they’ll know all there is
to know about SMT (surface mount
technology) and a lot more about the
MM: Finally, what can you tell us
about the business today?
ML: In regard to hobby kits, a lot has
gone on over the past few years. We
have seen through-hole components
become less and less available as SMT
components replace them. That is a
major change for the hobbyist. You
simply can’t use the Weller soldering
gun I used back in the ninth grade.
We saw this coming early on and
started provided SMT training kits and
soldering guides right away. Today,
that soldering gun is replaced with a
miniature soldering station, tweezers,
and a magnifying glass.
Just like the early digital clock and
LED Blinky, it’s just new technology,
and we will continue to provide
whatever is necessary for the hobbyist
to learn and understand it. We
are known for unique products and
unsurpassed customer support. It is our
goal to continue that legacy regardless
of technology changes. NV
590 Fishers Station Dr.
Victor, NY 14564