ODL, Inc.

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ODL, Inc.

215 East Roosevelt Avenue
Zeeland, Michigan 49464
Telephone: (616) 772-9111
Toll Free: (800) 253-3900
Fax: (616) 772-3840
Web site: http://www.odl.com

Private Company
1951 as Zeeland Sash and Door
Employees: 1,250
Sales: $150 million (2002 est.)
NAIC: 321911 Wood Window and Door Manufacturing 332321 Metal Window and Door Manufacturing; 337920 Blind and Shade Manufacturing; 332322 Sheet Metal Work Manufacturing

ODL, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of decorative windows for doors and entryways, and also makes skylights, enclosed blinds, and retractable screens for doors. The firms goods are sold to companies that integrate them into finished doors and other building products, and they also are available through home improvement retailers like Home Depot. ODL brands include Vista Skylights, Solar Flair Tubular Skylights, and Entry Point window blinds and retractable screens, as well as windows that are made under the companys own name. The firm is owned by the Mulder family and run by Larry Mulder, the son of its founder.

1940s Beginnings

ODL traces its roots to March 1945 when Cyrus Mulder started a cabinetmaking shop at his home in Zeeland, Michigan. The small business, which later became known as Artcraft Novelty Shop, initially manufactured custom cabinets, wooden toys, and clothespins. In 1948 Mulders brother Louis joined him and the two began making prefabricated windows and wooden exterior doors for the post-World War II homebuilding boom that was then in full swing.

Production of doors and windows soon became the Mulders primary activity, and in 1951 the business was incorporated and renamed Zeeland Sash and Door. By then the firm also was making decorative windows for doors, which were known in the industry as doorlights.

The 1950s saw the company again change focus as the demand for doorlights outstripped its other offerings. In 1963 Zeeland Sash and Door was renamed Ottawa Door Lights, after the Michigan county in which Zeeland was located. Also in 1963 Cyrus Mulders son Larry entered the family business on a full-time basis after he had quit college to get married.

At this time Ottawa Door Lights was still a small company, with only five employees and annual sales of just $65,000. To increase the firms revenues, Larry Mulder began to work as a traveling sales representative, and also secured bank loans to help it expand. A few years later he and his brother Garvin would buy the business from their father.

During the mid-1960s Ottawa Door Lights began making windows for installation in the insulated steel doors then popular in home construction, and once again the company found itself with a new product that would shape its future. This new doorlight, the injection-molded polystyrene Uni-Guard Sash, proved so popular that the company opened a second plant to meet demand. The one-piece, gothic-inspired sash design had no joints like a wooden window frame, was not prone to cracking, and required no maintenance.

The 1970s saw the growing Ottawa Door Lights introduce a wide array of new products, including a thermal ventilating doorlight added in 1974 that could let air through a door without use of a screen. In 1976 the firm officially shortened its name to ODL, Inc. in acknowledgment of its by now national reach. During this time the companys sales volume was growing by 40 percent or more each year.

In 1977 the firm started a new subsidiary called ODL Profile, Inc., which would make sliding door tracks, trim strips, and other extruded plastic parts for use in office furniture, partitions, refrigerators, and automotive and lighting products. The company formed the new venture because it wanted to develop products that were not subject to the seasonal ebb and flow of the construction industry. Other new efforts of ODL at this time included production of energy-conserving doorlights and steel insulated sidelights as well as other products for steel insulated doors.

Moving into Skylights in 1979

Keeping up with new trends in home design, the firm created its first skylight for the residential market in 1979. ODL continued to make hardwood doors and various types of windows, which now used a number of different types of glass, including etched, ribbed, and beveled antique style designs.

In 1985 ODL began a round of acquisitions with the purchase of Gordon Skylight Company of Vista, California, a maker of flat dome skylights. In 1988 Red Boy Products of Boston, which made wood window grills, was purchased, and in 1991 the firm bought a Mexican company, Koamex Glass. The Hermosillo-based Koamex made decorative glass doorlights using a variety of techniques. Products added to the companys offerings during this era included oak and mahogany entry doors. A joint venture with the Chinese government also was announced, which involved the manufacture of doorlights in that country.

In the late 1980s residential home construction began slowing down, with new home starts dropping from 1.8 million in 1986 to 1 million in 1991. This period saw a shift toward purchases of existing homes, which new owners would often upgrade or modify. Chains of big box stores that catered to this trend, such as Home Depot and Builders Square, sprang up to offer homeowners a wide array of do-it-yourself renovation products. Affected by the decline in home construction, ODL began developing a number of items for sale to the retail market.

Housing starts began to rise again in the early 1990s, and by 1994 stood at nearly 1.4 million. ODLs business began to pick up, and the firm was soon growing again at an annual rate of 15 percent, necessitating the expansion of one of its Zeeland plants and the hiring of 50 additional personnel.

By 1995 ODL was operating assembly plants or distribution centers in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Portland, Oregon, as well as in Atlanta, Dallas, and San Diego, in addition to three facilities in Zeeland. The firm was now taking in an estimated $85 million in revenues.

In 1997 ODL introduced a line of storage and organization products under the KeepTrak Universal Storage System name. After conducting a number of focus groups and performing other research, the company had come up with an expandable grid system that could use hooks or drawers to hold items, depending on a users needs. Price for the starter kit was less than $40, and a total of 15 different items were available. The move was made in part to help the company expand its presence in home center store chains.

Company CEO Larry Mulder ran a tight ship and was sometimes known as a gruff taskmaster, but he also took time off to enjoy a series of adventures outside of the workplace. He took his family on a 14-month sailing trip in 197374 that started in the Great Lakes and continued on to the Atlantic ocean and the Bahamas, leaving his brother to watch over the business. He later began hiking the Appalachian Trail, walking segments of the entire 2,159-mile route from Georgia to Maine in annual trips with his son or groups of children from his church in Holland, Michigan. In the summer of 1999 he finished the trek after 18 years of effort. In addition to his own activities, Mulder encouraged his employees to use their spare time to contribute to the community, and the firm and its staff were recognized by the state of Michigan for their work with the Habitat for Humanity organization.

Doubling the Size of the Firm in 2000

In early 2000 ODL made its largest acquisition to date when it purchased Doorlite, Inc. of Gallatin, Tennessee. Doorlite, also known as Western Reserve Products, was a manufacturer of decorative windows for doors with a factory in Mexico and distribution centers in Gallatin, Youngstown, Ohio, and Dallas. Doorlites 600 employees would nearly double ODLs workforce, and the combined firms would account for an estimated $140 million in annual revenues. After the merger, Doorlite was renamed Western Reflections LLC and operated as a subsidiary of the company.

2000 also saw ODL expand again in Zeeland with a 7,800-square-foot addition to its main plant. The construction, which was assisted by a nearly $1 million, 12-year tax abatement, would add office space as well as an employee lobby and lunchroom. Fifteen new jobs would be created, bringing to 390 the total employed at the factory. The firm had added almost 50,000 square feet there over a two-year span. In 2001 ODL also added a division that would be devoted to manufacturing the companys new Solar Flair Tubular Skylight.

ODL was now offering a diverse, yet complementary product mix. The company made decorative windows for doors in a variety of designs in both clear and privacy-enhancing frosted styles. Matching windows were made for use in the entryway. The company also offered the Secure by Design line of laminated glass security windows which were highly impact-resistant. EntryPoint brand blinds and roller shades could be used in the entryway as well. Other products included Light-Touch Internal Blinds, which featured adjustable slatted blinds sealed inside window glass, and the space-saving EntryPoint retractable screen door that utilized a flexible sliding screen and a vertical roller unit mounted in the door frame.

Company Perspectives:

Our Tradition Brings Excellence. ODL is one of Americas leading manufacturers and distributors of quality building products for the home. ODL brings a tradition of craftsmanship and innovation to a diverse line of home atmosphere enhancing products. Whether you choose decorative doorglass, skylights, tubular skylights, entry door blinds or other entry accessories, ODLs focus is Building Value into Building Products.

ODLs skylight offerings included the Vista line, which featured a number of different designs including a severe weather model. The firms Solar Flair Tubular Skylight utilized a small bubble-shaped glass roof opening that was connected to a tube made of highly reflective material, which extended down to the ceiling of a room. It could transmit up to 95 percent of the gathered light into the house. Other items such as wooden doors and storage and organizing systems had been dropped from the companys product mix by this time. Although mostly sold in the United States, ODL products were available in other countries, including Canada and England.

In 2003, nearly 60 years after it was founded, ODL, Inc. had earned a name as a leading manufacturer of door and entry way windows, skylights, and other building products. The firms reputation for innovation and quality were well known within the industry, and it looked toward continued growth and success in the years to come.

Principal Subsidiaries

Western Reflections LLC.

Principal Competitors

Andersen Corporation; JELD-WEN, Inc.; Pella Corporation; Hunter Douglas N.V.

Key Dates:

Cyrus Mulder founds a small cabinet making business in Zeeland, Michigan.
The shop starts making doors and windows.
Mulder incorporates the company and renames it Zeeland Sash and Door.
The company name is changed to Ottawa Door Lights.
The company shortens its name to ODL, Inc.
ODL begins making skylights.
The company acquires Gordon Skylight Company of Vista, California.
ODL buys window grill maker Red Boy Products of Boston.
The company purchases Koamex Glass of Hermo-sillo, Mexico.
The acquisition of Doorlite, Inc. doubles the companys size.
A new division is formed to manufacture Solar Flair Tubular Skylights.

Further Reading

Goldbogen, Jessica, ODL Enters Storage, Organization Market, HFN: The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network, February 17, 1997, p. 77.

Holland Hiker Nears End of Trail, Holland Sentinel, August 19, 1999.

Leith, Scott, Building Products Company Acquires Rival, Grand Rapids Press, January 25, 2000, p. B5.

McCarthy, Tom, Mulder Helped Firm Take Off by Staying Out of Clouds, Grand Rapids Press, August 2, 1987.

ODL Again Expanding Zeeland Headquarters, Holland Sentinel, June 25, 2000.

ODL Doubles Sales Volume in Past Two Years, Holland Sentinel, January 19, 1978.

ODL Inc. Acquires Competitor to Expand Capacity, Holland Sentinel, January 30, 2000.

ODL, Inc. Leads the Way in Building Products Industry, Holland Sentinel, November 22, 2000.

ODL, Incorporated Celebrates 50 Years of Growth, Holland Chamber News, June, 1995, pp. 45.

ODL Offers Flexible Storage with Keep Trak Universal System, DIY Week, January 10, 1997, p. S15.

Room for Improvements, Glass Age, April 1, 1999, p. 88.

Veverka, Amber, Home Construction Activity Has Companies Adding On, Grand Rapids Press, July 17, 1994, p. F1.

Frank Uhle