Art Van Furniture to close all stores: How did we get here?

WARREN, Mich. – Warren-based furniture chain Art Van Furniture is planning to close all stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio.

Art Van has been everywhere in Metro Detroit -- on television with advertisements day and night, at 200 store locations and through 5,000 employees. This will all end soon because a new owner from outside the family crashed spectacularly into the rocks.

In 2017, Art Van Elslander sold his prized company to a Boston hedge fund -- Thomas H. Lee Partners of Boston.

Plunkett Cooney lead bankruptcy counsel Doug Bernstein told Local 4 a lot of things went wrong.

“You’ve got a lot of debt,” Bernstein said. “You’ve got a lot of expansion, and people’s shopping habits have changed.”

Online shopping certainly changed the game, and other retailers moving into the market didn’t help, but Art Van’s vast Midwest reach seemed to work against it.

“Brick and mortar are expensive,” Bernstein said. “The more locations you have, the more overhead you’ve got, so you have to be very efficient. You have to be ahead of the curve. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case."

“My understanding is the landlords who helped with this sale upped the rents, which made it difficult for the stores to survive,” O’Keefe said.

Bernstein said all you need to know about what happened with Art Van is found in remembering the Toys "R" Us bankruptcy.

“When the hedge fund comes in and buys it, they load it up with debt and carry it as long as they care to and then say, ‘Oh well, we tried. Now we’re done,'” Bernstein said.

There was nothing left for anyone to buy, which explains why such a recognized name will end up liquidated in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

It's so peculiar to think that there will not be an Art Van furniture store anymore. 

Our family has been in the furniture & mattress business for almost 35 years. While Art Van was always competitive, I appreciated and respected them immensely. 

Just like anything else in life you look for inspiration and that's what Art Van did for us. Art Van was the barometer we gauge ourselves, whether it was advertising, salespeople, shipping, and deliveries, they were the best.

Art Van was like the grandfather of everyone in the business, he kept many major retailers out of Michigan, and as long as you stay on the good side of Art, they never hurt you.

I really hate to see what happened to Art Van, the buy out was a disaster on so many levels. Sad day in our industry.

Warren