Michigan is a land of great things—expansive beauty, innovation, and idealism. 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 over 50 years in the making. And it all started right here.
Read about Giving at Art Van Furniture
From the Ground Up
Art Van Elslander, Chairman and Founder of Art Van Furniture, began working in a Detroit furniture store as a young man. In just a few short years, he was ready for a bigger challenge and opened his own store on Gratiot Avenue and 10 Mile Road in 1959. His founding philosophy was to provide the community with quality furniture at great prices, with always high standards of customer service.
Known then as "Art Vans," Van Elslander was the sole employee of the store, which featured Danish and contemporary home furnishings. Though Detroit's economy was struggling, the company grew, and between 1959 and 1964 Van Elslander took on three business partners and opened seven more stores. Later, the name was changed to the current Art Van Furniture.
The company hit hard times in 1964. Struggling to save the business, Van Elslander held a liquidation sale at the Michigan State Fairgrounds. He was worried this bold move might not work. The Beatles were performing at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit and the show was broadcast to the crowds at the Fairgrounds, so Van Elslander thought it would doom sales.
But he was wrong. 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.
Growth continued through the years, with eight more stores opening throughout Michigan, and eventually Van Elslander bought out his partners and become sole owner once more. In 1973, Art Van Furniture moved its headquarters from 12 Mile and Van Dyke Road to the 14 Mile location in Warren, where it is still located today.
Changing the Game
Art Van Furniture soon became known for innovation in furniture retail. 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. Mattress Express® service was implemented, guaranteeing next-day delivery to guests. Also, the Clearance Centers, which opened in 1984, continue to offer both brand-new and overstocked merchandise at remarkable savings to guests throughout the state. The most recent innovation was completed in 2001: the 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% less lighting, heating, and cooling.
Art Van Furniture has received many accolades from various organizations recognizing our commitment to quality and the community. Most recently, the company was named "2009 Furniture Retailer of the Year" by Furniture/Today magazine. In 2009, Van Elslander was awarded the President's Leadership Award by the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, the Warm Hearts Award by THAW (The Heat and Warmth Fund), and the Max M. Fisher Award for Outstanding Philanthropist by the Greater Detroit Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. In 2001, Van Elslander was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame, and Detroit News readers have voted Art Van Furniture Michigan's Best Home Furnishings Store since 2003. The National Home Furnishings Association named Art Van Elslander the 1998 Retailer of the Year, while the Michigan Retailer's Association named the company 2000 Retailer of the Year.
Mr. Van Elslander says, "If you're fortunate enough to be as successful... as our company has been, then it's your responsibility to give back. I just believe that." This is why he and his company are so dedicated to supporting Michigan communities. In 1990, when the annual Thanksgiving Parade in Detroit was in financial peril, Van Elslander made a historic donation that saved the Michigan tradition, which is now known as America's Thanksgiving Parade®. 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, which featured the float, "Knights of the Charitable Roundtable."
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. See our philanthropy page for more details.
2009 marked Art Van Furniture's 50th anniversary, which we celebrated by giving back. The Art Van Million-Dollar Charity Challenge was a monumental success. Van Elslander personally donated $1 million to 50 organizations across the state supporting children, health, and human services, and the grants were positioned as challenge grants to match and maximize fundraising opportunities. View the winners of the Art Van Million-Dollar Charity Challenge!
We also held three anniversary galas, where the company partied the night away with local celebrities and valued guests, and ticket sales raised over $1 million for Henry Ford Health System, Genesys Health Foundation, St. Mary's Hospital Foundation, and Helen DeVos Children's Hospital Foundation.
To wrap up the year, Art Van Furniture gave away a 1959 Corvette and announced the winner at the Michigan Legends Charity Concert in November 2009. Grooving to Motown beats was an excellent way to blow the candles out on this anniversary year, and we were able to donate 100% of tickets sales (as well as many boxes of canned goods) to Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit. The year was a golden opportunity to look back at many accomplishments, give back, and begin planning the next 50 years. Other programs this year included donations to schools across the state, 500 mattresses donated to shelters, and 50 bedroom suites to chronically ill children.
Today, Art Van Furniture operates 36 stores in Michigan with complete furniture and mattress selections, and seven freestanding PureSleep mattress stores, which use the latest sleep technology to fit each guest with the right mattress, foundation and pillows to promote better sleep and better health. New offerings inside Art Van include "Paul's TV" and "World of Floors". Art Van is preparing to open its first stores outside of Michigan, in the Toledo and Chicago markets in 2013.
Art Van Furniture is family-owned, headed by Founder and Chairman Art Van Elslander. With over 2,500 associates and 400 service and delivery vehicles, we've created an amazing company with a story to tell. The passion and dedication that launched this company continues today, and each year brings fresh innovation and growth.