A Special Sort of Company

Photo By
Hannah Ziegeler

We take a look at the ins-and-outs of Decatur-based Special-Lite, Inc.


Special-Lite, Inc.


Decatur, Michigan

Additional Locations

Niles, Michigan; Marshall, Arkansas

Year Founded





Henry L. Upjohn II, CEO

Its “Why”

To design, engineer, manufacture and sell high-performance products for selected segments of the commercial entrance market

What it Makes

  • Doors
  • Hardware & Lites (i.e. Windows)
  • Framing & Panels
  • Restroom Partitions
  • Interior Architectural Products
  • Extreme Performance (i.e. Bullet and Blow Resistant)


  • Industries with highly engineered, high traffic, high use environments:
  • Corporate
  • Education
  • Government
  • Food Production
  • Restaurant, Retail & Hotels
  • Manufacturing
  • Entertainment
  • Pharmaceutical/Chemical
  • Healthcare
  • Religious
  • Gas/Car Wash

Customer Base

North America

Places Where You’ll Pass Through Special-Lite Doors

  • Chick-fil-A
  • Walt Disney World
  • Detroit Marriott
  • National Life Building
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • Knouse Foods
  • Whirlpool Corporation
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Cincinnati Zoo
  • Centers for Disease Control
  • National Institutes of Health
  • Phillips 66 Company
  • Harley-Davidson Museum

Number of Employees


Who Works There

Skilled manufacturing workers including:

  • Product Engineers
  • Software Engineers
  • Information Technology Technicians
  • Material Handlers
  • Truck Drivers


Family-oriented. Printed on the back of every business card are Henry’s principles for a happy and productive work environment, which conclude with: “We are a family.”


End users, like the U.S. Coast Guard, in coastal areas susceptible to hurricanes order extreme environment products for doorway access. Branches of the U.S. military often select Special-Lite blow resistant products for entrances.

For restrooms expected to endure heavy use and frequent abuse, such as K-12 schools, universities, dormitories, stadiums, parks, rest areas and retail facilities, custom fabricated partitions are an ideal choice; they are more dent, scratch-, stain- and tamper-resistant than competitive products. Graffiti drawn with permanent marker or spray paint can be removed easily, even using green cleaners. Special-Lite partitions are also durable in corrosive environments, like those found in and around locker rooms, pools, showers, spas and coastal areas.

In high cycle, high abuse environments, Special-Lite products provide long-life solutions. The company’s SL-17 FRP Door is its most conventional Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester (FRP) Aluminum Door. Initially introduced into the market as the “School Door,” this door stands up to challenging environments, even capable of taking a direct hit from a baseball hit at high velocity. Special-Lite is the largest volume producer of FRP doors in the U.S. today.

Its world-class closed-cell polyurethane foamed core process, recognized as the Special-Lite “poured-in-place process,” continues today as an industry standard. Custom framing, factory bonded FRP face sheets, and water-based foam injections set durable Special-Lite doors apart from competitors. Unlike wood and metal doors, they will not split, peel, rust, corrode, crack, or rot.

The company’s commitment to social responsibility and community is affirmed by its loyalty to Decatur, Michigan, where it retains an 180,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, also serving as its headquarters.

Now Hiring

Job openings are available at special-lite.com/employment.html


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