The History of Special-Lite
Special-Lite, Inc. is a privately held firm with its headquarters in Decatur, Michigan and manufacturing locations in Decatur, Michigan; Niles, Michigan and Marshall, Arkansas. The company was founded in 1969 by Ed Smola and originally known as Decatur Quality Glass. In 1971 Grant O. Young, who had partnered with Smola in building this business, organized this aluminum flush as well as a stile and rail door company. From the very beginning, the company’s mission has been to design, engineer, manufacture and sell high-performance products for selected segments of the commercial entrance market.
In 1975, Special-Lite purchased the DESCO aluminum stile and rail door business of Adams and Westlake, Inc., of Elkhart, Indiana as it looked to broaden its product lines and maintain growth. In 1976, the resulting upturn in business allowed the company to purchase five acres of land and build a new production facility on County Road 668 on the outskirts of Decatur. This facility and location continue to serve as the primary manufacturing and headquarter site.
PIONEERED FRP FLUSH DOOR
Responding to the need for a scratch and dent-resistant door for the school environment, Special-Lite introduced the industry’s first flush door for exterior entrances utilizing Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) face sheets in 1981.
FRP DOOR LEADER WITH SPECLITE 3®
In 1995, Special-Lite brought to market a proprietary and unique SpecLite 3® Mylar-coated FRP face sheet for its FRP door (Model SL-17). This coating provides 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.
UPJOHN INITIATES ENGINEERING ADVANCEMENTS
In 1998, Henry L. Upjohn II became majority owner of Special-Lite, Inc., his engineering prowess and leadership has allowed the company to continue its leadership position. Upjohn’s specific developments around the manufacturing of highly engineered building entry solutions, and specifically a world class closed-cell polyurethane foamed core process (recognized as the Special-Lite “poured-in-place process) continues today as an industry standard.
UNIVERSAL PULTRUSIONS ACQUISITION
In 2012, Special-Lite acquired Universal Pultrusions of Marshall, Arkansas. The acquisition of this innovative pultrusion technology was important in maintaining and securing a leadership position for Special-Lite in the fiberglass and non-corrosive building entry solution market. Today, we believe that the original door model AF-100 is the only fully pultruded all-fiberglass corrosion resistant door on the market. In 2014, Special-Lite invested in over 65,000 square feet of plant space and modernization in Marshall, Arkansas. Improvements were made to the office, the painting operation and pultruding capacity.
OMEGA ALUMINUM FRAMING ACQUISITION
In 2015, Special-Lite acquired the Omega Aluminum Framing business from Chicago-based Architectural Builders Hardware Manufacturing, Inc. (ABH). The acquisition broadened Special-Lite’s interior products offering with a high-quality Type II aluminum framing for the interior glass office fronts and demountable wall business. With Special-Lite’s experience in aluminum doors and framing, the investment provided the perfect beginning to an important office interior market segment strategy.
SPECIAL-LITE GROWTH AND EXPANSION INTO BENTON TOWNSHIP, MI
In 2017, manufacturing of the interior aluminum products was moved from a leased building in Niles, MI to a purchased 131,000 sq. ft. building in Benton Township, MI. Moving to the new location provided additional manufacturing space, with the ability for continued growth in the interior aluminum, as well as legacy fiberglass, and aluminum door & frame products.
COMMITMENT TO QUALITY ENGINEERING
Today, Special-Lite remains committed to designing, engineering and manufacturing only the highest quality and high-performance architectural building products. Special-Lite continues to grow and expand into new markets, both geographic and product type. Special-Lite’s products can be found extensively throughout North America and have a growing presence and recognition in many other parts of the world. Our product offering has expanded beyond aluminum, FRP flush and stile and rail aluminum doors to include: aluminum and fiberglass framing, bathroom partitions, office interior glass fronts and walls, vestibules, and doors for food processing and clean rooms.
SPECIAL-LITE’S MISSION STATEMENT
“Special-Lite is committed to being a profitable, independent, employee-centered, socially responsible manufacturer of high quality products while delivering services that exceed end-user expectations.”