Restaurant Doors Make a Great First Impression at Bravo!

For any restaurant, a first impression is important. And for most customers, that first impression is made right at the front door.
The 180-seat Bravo! Restaurant & Café in Portage, Mich., just celebrated its 30th anniversary, serving a variety of Italian-American cuisine including pasta, calamari, and its famous mushroom soup, for which chef/owner Shawn Hagen says, “people come from miles around.”
Even with that reputation, Hagen knows that it’s important to make that good impression at the front door. “That’s a big impression point right there, as people enter your business,” he says. More than 15 years ago, Hagen had Special-Lite SL-19 Wood Grain doors installed at the restaurant and they’re still going strong.
Hagen chose Special-Lite because as he says, they have a “quality name and great reputation.” Talking with other businesses that had Special-Lite doors convinced him they were the right choice.

Corrosion Resistant FRP Lets Bravo! Salt to Taste

An exposed east-facing entrance meant that selecting exterior doors which could provide the look and feel desired, while still delivering long life and easy maintenance, would be no easy feat. For buildings that welcome the public in northern climates, sidewalk de-icer and road salt are facts of life several months of the year.
The SL-19 Wood Grain FRP door was the perfect choice to provide the warm appearance of wood, without the upkeep of real wood. Teak wood stain and realistic wood grain texture on the face sheets created just the right greeting for incoming guests. Custom arch-topped vision lites with applied muntins added a final touch of elegance. Class I anodizing of all aluminum surfaces and easy to clean face sheets provide the corrosion resistance needed, even when exposed to direct sunlight and harsh weather.
Recently, it came time to replace the doors leading to the patio at Bravo! After his Special-Lite representative showed him a variety of available options, new SL-15 aluminum stile and rail doors were installed with wood expressions decorative finish. Hagen was impressed by “a lot of little nuances you don’t even think about — how the closer would work, and how it would make it a lot easier for our staff to go in and out, just by the motion of the door.”

Doors Get Standing Ovation

These doors have been a big hit with the restaurant’s owners and guests, and other restaurateurs as well. Special-Lite has since been asked to quote exact replicas of these doors, right down to the custom pulls!
Hagen is a true believer in the quality and durability of Special-Lite doors, noting that they hold up “unbelievably well. Nothing lasts forever… but a Special-Lite door, maybe.”  



Kalamazoo, MI


SL-19 Rustic Wood Grain FRP/Aluminum Hybrid Doors

SL-15 Wide Stile Monumental ALuminum Stile & Rail Doors with Wood Expressions Decorative Finish

Special-Lite Customer:

Reliable Glass Installers, Inc.

Special-Lite Sales Representative:

The Eisen Group


Download Bravo! Case Study PDF
More Photos of Bravo!
Special-Lite Restaurant Solutions
How to Refinish Wood Grain FRP Doors

The Totally True History of Doors (Infographic)

Let’s talk history.  
You probably know your personal history fairly well.  (If not, there are probably better things for you to do with your time than read this post!).  You may know your country’s history to some extent. Some people really get into the history of war.  Perhaps you majored in art history. (Once more, that probably means you have better things to be doing, such as polishing your résumé.
But do you know the history of doors?
Okay, I heard that!  So, it’s not the most fascinating journey into history that you can take.  But, trust me, it beats the pants off of the history of swine flu.
For instance:
Okay, so maybe that one falls under the category of fake news.  Or, as those of us in the history arena like to say, “It stretches the bounds of historical literacy.”
The true history of doors offers its own surprises.  For example, how large was the door on Noah’s Ark? Okay, I really don’t know and even if I did, you probably don’t know your cubits from a yardstick.  
But I have used my extensive research skills in uncovering the true history of doors—at least from a historical records perspective.
Take a look and let me know what you think.  If you prefer, we could even discuss the swine flu.  But I gotta tell ya, it’s a short journey from H1N1 to H2N3.

Momentous Events in Door History

3000 BC: Wooden doors used in Europe.
2000 BC: Stone doors used throughout Asia.
587 BC: Solomon uses Olive wood overlaid with gold for his temple in Jerusalem.
1st Century AD: Roman folding and sliding doors preserved in Pompeii.
1st Century AD: A Greek scholar invents the first automatic door.
5th Century AD: The First foot-sensor-activated automatic door was made in China.
6th – 9th Century AD: Copper and Bronze used on doors in Medieval Europe.
12th – 15th Century AD: Ornate panel and carved wood doors grace the best structures.
1881 AD: The revolving door invented in Germany.
1909 AD: An American chemist invents the world’s first synthetic plastic (polymer).
1932 AD: A researcher at Owens-Illinois creates mass production of glass strands (fiberglass).
1970s AD: Polymer production surpasses the production of steel worldwide.
1981 AD: Special-Lite introduces the world’s first FRP (fiber reinforced polymer) door.


Do you know doors?
You can with this handy pocket Glossary. It measures only 3.5 x 6 inches is a handy reference tool of over 50 pages, nearly 300 definitions, and 40+ illustrations.

Case Study: Research Proves Special-Lite Doors Perform

As the Government of Canada’s premier research and technology organization, the National Research Council (NRC) is uniquely qualified to evaluate the merits of any product or technology, and the validity of any claims made about it. With over 50 specialized laboratory, testing, and office buildings to maintain in a sprawling campus in Ottawa, Ontario, they have learned a thing or two about doors that didn’t live up to their billing.

From Test Doors to Brand Performance

To evaluate Special-Lite Doors, which were relatively new to the Canadian market at the time, NRC was offered a pair of promotional doors to try on a busy employee entrance that had been prompting service calls on a regular basis. The problem opening was updated with a pair of Special-Lite SL-15 monumental doors and aluminum tube frames. It has been operating trouble-free ever since. Based on NRC’s experience with that opening, they tried some Special-Lite SL-17 doors. Now, when exterior doors are replaced on NRC buildings, they are Special-Lite doors!
Left: A low-maintenance side door that will remain attractive for years to come. Right: This Special-Lite door secures the entrance while displaying appropriate hazard notices.
Download PDF Case Study:

The Landing: Creating an Experience One Door at a Time

How do you design a restaurant that is as beautiful as the shores of Northern Lake Michigan, and as welcoming as your favorite local hangout? How do you enable a venue to stay as fresh and appetizing as the great food it serves its customers, all while battling a high-moisture environment and high-volume traffic? The Landing Restaurant in Charlevoix, Michigan shows us how.
Preston Parish, Owner of The Landing, decided to create a delightful experience for the community with these goals in mind. He accomplished this by making wise product selections, one door at a time, that would enhance the surrounding ambiance of this favored destination.
Doors are an important element to the building envelope because they welcome every visitor that visits the establishment. They may seem minimal compared to the food and hospitality created by the hosts of this fast-growing establishment, but they are the one building component that every visitor will touch.
The main entrance of a restaurant has many functions beyond separating the inside of the building from the outside weather, temperature, and unwanted visitors such as animals and intruders. The doors in the main entrance should reflect the brand of the restaurant, whether that be in size, color, texture or style. A “one-off” restaurant, such as The Landing, may choose to have the main entrance door designed specifically for that location or the owner’s preference.
The selection process will change for a chain of restaurants. For example, a chain of restaurants may want to have a recognizable entrance – or signature entrance – so traveling patrons will recognize their favorite restaurant in other cities. The main entrance must also be engineered for high performance, as the doors must continue to function properly even through max-capacity traffic levels. The front entrance should also be easy to maintain and have low maintenance requirements, enabling it to remain as attractive as the beautifully plated meals served inside the restaurant.
The Landing restaurant chose painted white aluminum stile and rail doors manufactured by Special-Lite, Inc. These doors feature a lifetime warranty on the tie-rod and corner clip construction. In high traffic areas, the corners are the typical location of door failure.
Many restaurants have side entrances to perform as exit-only doors, but some also serve as access doors to attractive outdoor eating areas. These doors may match the main entrance or have a coordinating design. Although these side openings may not see the foot traffic that the main entrance does, they must also function smoothly, be easily cleaned, and have low maintenance requirements. Many times, food servers must open these doors hands-free to deliver food and beverages to patrons.
One important feature on a side entrance used to access an outside eating area is to enhance visibility. Seeing what is on the other side of the door is an important safety feature– to the user as well as the unsuspecting person standing on the other side.
On the lake side, The Landing chose to match the front entrance with a painted white aluminum stile and rail door with a mid-rail. The painted aluminum surface is easy to clean and offers protection from corrosion in a wet environment.
The back door or service entrance of a restaurant is generally located at the back of the building and is the utility door used for delivery of food, equipment, and as an employee entrance. Even though this opening lacks the foot traffic from patrons, the action it does receive can be abusive. From the rigors of deliveries on handcarts to offering a secure door to keep unwanted or uninvited guests from entering – this door needs to be strong, resistant to dents and scratches, have low maintenance requirements and be easy to clean. This work-horse door also needs to match the building’s design and be available in extra wide sizing.
The Landing chose a Special-Lite wood grain textured FRP/Aluminum hybrid door for the natural look of wood without all the disadvantages of a regular wood door. They also went one step further and asked Special-Lite to ‘plank’ the corrosion-resistant FRP for that beachy feel.
In a restaurant, there are always patron restrooms. No one needs to be reminded how important these doors are to a customer. Patrons commonly infer clean restroom = clean kitchen. For an establishment to communicate that cleanliness is important, the restrooms HAVE to be clean. All architectural products for this very important room should be selected with easy cleaning as a priority.
The Landing knew this and wanted more coastal charm on the interior of their restaurant, so they again chose to use the Special-Lite wood grain textured FRP/Aluminum hybrid door– this time in a stained finish with the same ‘plank’ style.
Some may feel that doors are no match for a delicious lobster roll or citrus cured salmon florets– or above all– the relaxing social experience on this beautiful shoreline, but at The Landing, even the doors support the brand and the experience that Parish sought to create.
“We knew that the location, being near the water with the humidity, could be corrosive and harsh on the building products we used. We also believed the level of activity we generated would place a significant demand on the architecture and facility. These reasons are exactly why we chose Special-Lite for our building entries and other framing and partitioning solutions”, Parish explained.
The building, the setting, the food and the friendliness consistently draws loyal patrons, friends, and tourists to this gem located on Lake Charlevoix, near the Lake Michigan shoreline. They all enter this experience through a well-thought-out and professionally manufactured Special-Lite door.

Special-Lite Congratulates Second Group of Management Development Graduates

Special-Lite Congratulates Second Group of Management Development Graduates

The Special-Lite executive team and ownership continue to demonstrate their interest in developing the staff.  Just last month, the second group of employees graduated from our Management Development program. It represents a significant investment for the company and a significant commitment from candidates.
The program lasts 14 months.  Candidates, who represent a diversity of employee departments, are divided into teams but receive combined instruction from a variety of leaders.  A variety of leadership topics are addressed, including, leading up, leading down, leading across, working with different communication styles, presentation skills, writing and oral communications skills, project management, employment laws, discrimination and harassment, motivating others, and dealing with difficult employees.
The cornerstone of the course is a group project that spans the entire 14 months. For this project, each 5-6 person group tackled a project they thought would impact the company in a positive way. For this graduating class, Group A dealt with issues of new employee onboarding as well as employee training.  Group B tackled the challenge of enhancing the customer experience. Final project presentations are made before an audience of executives and those managing the candidates.
Company President, Kevin Hanley: “Each of the participants devoted a significant amount of personal time over the last year, getting exposure to a broad array of management and leadership skills.  These skills provide them the tools they need to excel both personally and professionally. I offer my sincerest congratulations to each of these graduates and look forward to their continued growth and contributions to our company.”

Special-Lite Completes Move of Interior Products Operation to Benton Township Facility

Special-Lite, Inc., a manufacturer of high-performance products for the commercial entrance and architectural interior markets, announced in February the purchase of a 130,000 SF building located at 1394 Empire Avenue in Benton Township, Michigan. The building had not been occupied in over a year.

Growth in Manufacturing

Headquartered in Decatur, MI, Special-Lite’s growth in commercial entrances and interior architectural products made it necessary to acquire additional manufacturing space. This $1 million investment provides space for unlimited new product and job growth for Special-Lite in Southwest Michigan. Over the years, Special-Lite has grown organically as well as through acquisition. The company’s most recent acquisitions have included pultruded fiberglass products and interior architectural product manufacturing.  Five years ago, they acquired Universal Pultrusions of Marshall, Arkansas. Two years after the acquisition, Special-Lite added 65,000 square feet to their Marshall, Arkansas site while substantially modernizing that facility. Two years ago, they acquired Omega Interior Aluminum Framing and leased a building in Niles, MI to support the acquisition.

Now Manufacturing in Berrien County

This month, after months of renovating this abandoned building, Special-Lite has begun manufacturing at the Benton Township facility. The Niles manufacturing of Omega Type II interior aluminum framing and SLI Interior Aluminum-Framed Doors has now moved to the Benton Township location. This facility will also begin manufacturing a new aluminum and glass demountable wall system – LiteSpace. Kevin Hanley, President and Chief Operating Officer at Special-Lite, commented, “We are excited about our move into the Benton Township facility and becoming a member of the local business community. This has been a significant investment by Special-Lite in the building as well as the community. They have transformed this closed and neglected building into a manufacturing facility that will contribute to the area’s economy. We are looking forward to continuing the good working relationships established with the local township officials and community leaders.” Special-Lite, Inc. is a privately held company. Special-Lite has a long history of engineering and building high-quality architectural products, providing superior customer service to their customers, and actively supporting their employees and surrounding communities. View PDF Press Release    

Special-Lite Upcoming Trade Shows

Special-Lite participates in many trade shows throughout the year. Here are the trade shows we are looking forward to yet in 2017 (check back for updates):  

appa-special-liteJul 21 – 23: APPA/PCAPPA 2017 Annual Conference & Exhibition | San Francisco, CA

APPA/PCAPPA/BayAPPA 2017 is the platform for discussion, information share, networking, and much more! Join over 600 educational colleagues for this distinctive international event where we discover best practices used around the world from more than 100 presenters, to include the professions most recognized and talented educational facilities leaders representing facilities officers, directors and managers throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the world! July 21-23 in San Francisco, CA, we will convene, identify and discuss the most current and pressing challenges facing educational facilities, and determine the common path forward. Visit the APPA website for more information! Who you’ll meet: Graig Young, Quixsilver Systems Booth: # 503   enr-conference-special-lite

Sept 12: ENR Port Authority of NY & NJ Annual Conference | New York, NY

Join us for the 4th Annual Port Authority of New York and New Jersey conference where attendees will learn about new and existing construction project opportunities. This year, the Port Authority Board approved the largest ever $32.2 Billion 10-YEAR Capital Plan for 2017-2026. Approved projects include the area’s major airports, bridges and tunnels, railways, ports, and p3 on major transportation and terminal projects. The approved plan will create 235,400 job years, $20 billion in total wages and $56 billion in overall economic activity… Find out how you can get involved in these projects by attending this year’s conference. Visit the conference website for more information! Who you’ll meet: Mark Schustek, Special-Lite, Inc. & Joe Boltzer, LaPorte Associates Booth: TBD  

October 18 – 20: IFMA’s World Workplace Conference & Expo | Houston, TX

The most all-encompassing learning and networking event on facilities and how to manage them. Immerse yourself in all things FM — from groundbreaking discoveries impacting the industry to achievable strategies for your daily to-do list. Discover a new way to do it, a different place to source it, a cool tool to fix it or an action plan to solve it. Whatever your “it” is, pursue, perfect or attain it at World Workplace. Learn more on the conference website! Who you’ll meet: Brian VonDette, Special-Lite, Inc. Booth: #1542 edspaces-special-lite

October 25 – 27: EDspaces 2017 | Kansas City, MO

EDspaces is the gathering place for architects, dealers, educational institutions, IMR’s, dealers and corporations to learn about trends and experience the latest products and services to enhance student learning. Visit the EDspaces website for more information! Who you’ll meet: Brian VonDette, Special-Lite, Inc. Booth: #740

October 26: Contech 2017 | Quebec City, Quebec, CA

The Building Expo held at the Centre de Foires every fall features 150 exhibitors and welcomes 1 000 visitors. Designers, building managers, and builders come to Contech to learn about the exhibitors’ new products, but also to meet with industry peers and keep up to date on the latest and best practices. Learn more on the Contech website! Who you’ll meet: Karyne St-Hilaire, Repère Architectural Booth: TBD

Special-Lite Investing in the Future: Management Development Program Graduates


About Special-Lite’s Management Development Program

When Special-Lite put this management training program together, the objective was to give interested and motivated employees the opportunity to develop and improve their personal and management skills.  While having trained employees would benefit Special-Lite in filling future leadership positions as we grow, it was also just as important to the executive team that the program helps the participants grow as individuals. They can use what they learned in the program– both inside and outside Special-Lite.  Another objective was to foster communication between individuals in different departments by working together collaboratively. The participants committed a significant amount of their time in the classroom learning and growing. In addition, they spent significant time outside of the classroom reading, doing homework and working on a large group project.  These projects, chosen by each group, focused on a specific process within Special-Lite and took the last 16 months to complete. This effort culminated in a presentation by each of the three groups to their managers, the executive leadership team, and the other groups on June 12.  Kevin Hanley, COO of Special-Lite, commented on the graduating class, “Each group did an outstanding job in their presentation.  It was incredible to witness the growth in skills and confidence demonstrated by all the participants in this program.  It was truly powerful and inspiring! Thank you to all the participants for the willingness to take this journey and go outside your comfort zone. Congratulations for an outstanding job!”

Special-Lite’s Commitment to Employee Growth

Special-Lite continually strives to be an employee-centered manufacturer. In addition to the Management Development program, Special-Lite hosts other development classes, such as Customer Service. Special-lite also offers tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing training or a degree at a higher learning institution.

Doors that Brand: The Making of a Winning Entrance

Do you need Doors that Brand your building? Follow the making of a Winning Entrance

In March, we completed our #inoticedoors hashtag photo contest, and we announced the winning photo by Mike of The Lazzaro Companies: an entrance at Peoples Bank in Highland, IN.


A Winning Design

This entrance is unique, featuring not only curved framing but also curved muntins that complete the circular shape. Where the curved muntins run thru the door– completing the circle design– vertical muntins begin and travel down to the bottom rail. What an intricate design!  Also notable– the vertical framing above the entrance echoes the lines of the inactive middle leaf. These are not your typical bank doors!

Arches with Curved Framing in Production

Little did anyone know, this entrance had caught our eye much earlier on! We had several projects coming through production with beautifully curved framing in December.


Any project with curved framing results in a show-stopping entrance– but it wasn’t until I saw the drawings that I knew this would be an entrance that brands a building!


An Entrance that Brands a building– and Endures

Many Peoples Bank locations feature a similar or nearly identical design with a circular shape and arched framing. However, this is the first to feature Special-Lite entrance products. According to Mike Nolan at The Lazzaro Companies, the original drawings called for aluminum-clad residential doors to suit the overall look the designer wanted. However, Mike advised the bank that Special-Lite was the way to go for this opening. Mike had experience using Special-Lite products in the past. He understood that residential doors do not accept commercial hardware well. In addition, residential doors are certainly not as durable as commercial entrance systems. With support from the contractor, Larson-Danielson, Mike worked with the engineering department at Special-Lite to come up with the opening you see in the photo.

Every entrance product at Special-Lite is made-to-order. This enables us to make a one-of-a-kind entrance such as this one, that stands out and communicates your brand. We love helping organizations create an entrance that leaves a lasting impression on all who enter!


Related Links

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Article on Fiberglass Pultrusion Wins 2017 DHI Robert G. Ryan Award

Pultrusion Technology Delivers Performance Enhancement won Second Place in Technical Articles

Special-Lite’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Roger Stempky won the 2nd place award in the Technical Article category of DHI’s 2017 Ryan Awards, for his article “Pultrusion Technology Delivers Performance Enhancement.” This article appeared in the November 2016 issue of Doors + Hardware Magazine. You can read about all the 2017 DHI Achievement Award Winners in the June issue!

About the Award

DHI presents this award to the best volunteer authors of any article in Doors + Hardware Magazine written from January 1 through December 31 each year. Articles cover either technical or business-related topics. Congratulations to Roger! We are very proud to win this award, especially given the number of excellent articles that appeared in Doors + Hardware Magazine in 2016!  

Read the Article:

pultrusion-article   Blog Adaptation & Video