The History of Special-Lite

Special-Lite, Inc. is a privately-held firm located in Decatur, Michigan. The company was organized in 1971 by Grant O. Young following the acquisition of the business and assets of aluminum flush door manufacturer Decatur Quality Glass, Inc., a company founded in 1969 by Ed Smola. Several other investors joined G. Young and E. Smola as operations began at the company’s original location of 105 Beers Street in Decatur. From the very beginning, the company’s mission has been to design, manufacture and sell high-performance products for selected segments of the commercial entrance market.

Production of aluminum doors for private labeling by other entrance product suppliers represented a significant portion of the company’s early business. In 1975, Special-Lite purchased the DESCO aluminum stile and rail door business of Adams and Westlake, Inc. in Elkhart, Indiana to expand its product line. Over time, sales of Special-Lite branded products came to exceed private label sales.

A significant turning point in the company’s growth occurred in 1976 when Kawneer, the market leader in commercial aluminum entrance products, added the Special-Lite aluminum flush door to its product line. The resulting upturn in business allowed the company to purchase five acres of land and build a new production facility on CR 668 on the outskirts of Decatur.

Responding to the need for a more scratch and dent-resistant door for the school environment, in 1981 Special-Lite introduced the industry’s first flush door for exterior entrances utilizing Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) face sheets. The FRP door (model SL-17) features an unique design and proprietary SpecLite3® FRP face sheet with the physical properties required for long life even in applications involving heavy traffic, physical abuse, vandalism and extreme weathering. Sales of the SL-17 have grown tremendously, making Special-Lite the largest volume producer of FRP doors in the U.S. today.