Michigan furniture giant Art Van opens ‘3.0’ flagship store in ToledoWritten by Bailey G. Dick | | firstname.lastname@example.org
For more than five decades, Michigan residents have stocked their homes with sofas, recliners and beds from Art Van Furniture. The store’s name is familiar to many Michiganders, as the company operates 36 stores in that state.
Art Van Elslander gave his name to the company he founded in Detroit in 1959.
“When he opened his first store 54 years ago, people had a hard time saying his last name, so he shortened it to Art Van,” said Diane Charles, the company’s director of corporate communications.
Since putting his shortened name on the sign in front of his first store, Van Elslander has seen the business expand to more than three dozen stores, including the company’s newest store in Toledo.
Who is the man behind Toledo’s newest furniture store? Kim Yost, the CEO of Art Van, says Van Elslander is “quite a distinguished individual.”
“His goal is to see the future. We call him the first spotter. He sees things that other people don’t see,” Yost said. “He’s very innovative and creative.”
It was that innovation that led the company to create a “3.0” version of their stores, the first of which was built at the Toledo location.
Van Elslander loves to get creative in another area of his life: fashion.
“When you get a chance to meet Mr. Van, you leave knowing he’s the most stylish guy you’ve ever met,” Yost said. “He loves style. He has amazing style.”
Employees at the Toledo store are taking cues from Van Elslander’s style. Bill Salisbury, the new store’s general manager, says that the furniture business keeps an eye on the latest fashion trends.
“We’re about six months behind fashion. So if yellow is a theme, you’ll start to see yellows show up in furniture about six months after,” Salisbury said.
Yost said that Van Elslander, a father of 10 and grandfather to more than 30 grandchildren, loves people.
“He loves his employees. He will tell you that the heartbeat of a company is its people, not the bricks and mortar. He’s all about his people,” Yost said.
Those “people” include the 3,000 currently employed by Art Van Furniture. The company says it plans to add 100 jobs with the opening of the Toledo store.
The Aug. 31 opening of the Toledo store kicks off a huge expansion for the company, which has plans to open nine new stores in 91 days. Yost said Van Elslander is looking forward to seeing his company grow.
“This is the largest growth and expansion plan in five decades,” Yost said. “Not only is [Van Elslander] excited financially and in terms of investment, he’ll tell you that never in his career have we done something so daring and so exciting. It’s energized our whole 3,000 employees. You’ve got one wired up company coming to this state.”
The store sits the site of the former Super Cinemas movie theater at Spring Meadows Shopping Center, which closed several years ago. Art Van built a 90,000-square-foot flagship store on the site, the first of its kind in the furniture chain.
“For many of us, it was hard for us to imagine demolishing that building, and then building our state-of-the-art store,” Yost said. “We put one of our best and most amazing furniture stores in its place. “
Making the decision to expand their business outside of Michigan was all about timing, Yost said.
“Mr. Van will tell you that the team was right, the timing was right, and we’re seeing a great little surge in the economy. Everything, you could argue, is in position,” Yost said. “We have so many more requests from guests in Toledo, guests in Chicago and beyond to bring our secret sauce to their market.”
Van Elslander said he is thrilled that the his company has opened a store in Toledo.
“Toledo residents have been shopping with us in Michigan for many years,” Van Elslander said. “We share common values of family and community, and it was a natural fit for us to open a location here. We could not be happier to call Toledo our home.”
The company opened a store in Orland Park, Ill., just outside of Chicago, last month. Art Van is also expanding its franchise model, which currently includes eight stores in Michigan. As for the Toledo store, employees are still putting the finishing touches on the building. During a preview of the store last this week, workers were busy stocking the Clearance Center section of the store, and spent the morning unwrapping discounted items.
In addition to that section, the store features the “style boulevard,” which houses trendy new pieces for fashion mavens like Van Elslander. Also inside the flagship store are specialized departments like Paul’s TV, a flooring section, a backyard furniture section, a section featuring bedrooms for kids and teens, and Art Van PureSleep, which sells mattresses and pillows.
Art Van employees say they’re hoping to see many “supermoms” in their Toledo store. The company says their target customer is someone they dubbed “Busy Jenny,” a 35- to 55-year old who runs her house.
“She is the CEO of the household, and she truly is the financier of the shared wallet,” Yost said.
And according to store officials, most of the products sold in the store are unique to Art Van Furniture.
“Ninety percent of the merchandise you see is exclusive to Art Van. No one else carries those products,” Yost said.
And for the Busy Jennys who are looking for name-brand items, Art Van carries those as well. The store plans to carry familiar brands like La-Z-Boy, Broyhill and England, as well as electronics brands like Samsung, Sharp, Panasonic and Toshiba.
Art Van Furniture opens Aug. 31, and will celebrate its grand opening Sept. 7. It is located at 1301 E. Mall Drive in the Spring Meadows Shopping Center.