“Michigan is a land of great things – expansive beauty, innovation and idealism,” the company says. “As the state’s largest furniture retailer, and the only independent family-run furniture store of its kind in the Midwest, Art Van Furniture is proud to call Michigan home. Through perseverance and business savvy, our story is now more than 50 years in the making.”
The chain was founded by Art Van Elslander, who started out as an employee of a Detroit furniture retailer as a young man. Within a few years, Van Elslander had the experience he needed to start his own store, and the principles he opened the store with remain the guiding principles of Art Van Furniture today. “His founding philosophy was to provide the community with quality furniture at great prices, with always high standards of customer service,” the company says.
Over the next several years, Van Elslander and his new business partners opened seven more stores through the Detroit metro area. In 1964, however, the city’s struggling economy caught up with Art Van Furniture, and the company held a liquidation sale at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. According to the company, Van Elslander was worried that The Beatles’ performance at Olympia Stadium that same day would keep crowds away from the fairgrounds. “But he was wrong,” the company adds. “In what became a legendary moment in Art Van Furniture history, Van Elslander sold everything. This remarkable sale was a turning point, and put Art Van back on the map.”
History of Innovation
Thanks to that historic sale, Art Van Furniture was able to continue growing throughout the Detroit area, and today the company operates 36 stores in Michigan. Over the years, Art Van Furniture has built up a reputation for customer service that it says is unparalleled in the industry. “Aiming to create new ways to provide unmatched customer service, Art Van’s massive in-store inventory and delivery capabilities ensure that customers not only receive great value, but they can also enjoy their furniture immediately.”
For example, the company’s Mattress Express service guarantees next-day delivery to customers. In 1984, the company opened the first of its Clearance Center locations, which provides new and overstocked merchandise at reduced costs. Perhaps the company’s biggest innovation came in 2001, when Art Van Furniture opened its automated warehouse. “This one-of-a-kind 183,000 square-foot storage and retrieval system is completely automated, allowing Art Van Furniture to leave a smaller environmental footprint than a traditional warehouse by using 75 percent less lighting, heating and cooling,” the company says.
The company’s dedication to customer service has earned it a number of accolades from the industry and the community. In 2009, Furniture/Today magazine named Art Van Furniture “Furniture Retailer of the Year.”
That same year, the company received the President’s Leadership Award from the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, the Warm Hearts Award from The Heat and Warmth Fund and the Max M. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist from the Greater Detroit Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Readers of the Detroit News have voted the store Michigan’s best home furnishings store every year since 2003, and in 2001, Van Elslander was elected to into the American Furniture Hall of Fame.
Giving back to the community has been a part of Art Van Furniture’s philosophy from the very beginning, the company explains. “In 1990, when the annual Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit was in financial peril, Van Elslander made a historic donation that saved the Michigan tradition,” the company says. “Since then, the company has been a major contributor to the event each year. And in 2009, to honor his strong and consistent support and Art Van Furniture’s 50th anniversary, Van Elslander was invited to serve as Co-Grand Marshal of the Parade.
“Art Van Furniture also supports other events and nonprofit organizations, including food drives for Gleaners Community Food Bank, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and The Salvation Army, as well as blood drives for the American Red Cross,” the company adds.