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From Home Furnishing Business

Industry Icon Art Van Elslander Dies at 87

Furniture industry icon Art Van Elslander, founder of Art Van Furniture, died Monday at age 87.

Van Elslander, who was inducted into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame in 2001, had been battling cancer, the company said.

"My family is heartbroken by the loss of our father." said Gary Van Elslander, president of Van Elslander Capital, and Van Elslander's eldest son.

A pioneer retailer and master promoter, he was widely respected in the furniture industry for his creative approach to marketing. Van Elslander's awards and recognitions were many, with his generosity and business acumen regularly acknowledged.

Art Van founded the business in 1959, opening a 4,000 square-foot store that sold Danish and contemporary home furnishings.

Today, the company has more than 180 stores in nine states, and is the largest furniture and mattress retailer in the Midwest. In addition to Art Van Furniture, the company operates Art Van PureSleep mattress specialty stores, Art Van Flooring floor covering stores, and high-end Scott Shuptrine Interiors stores.

Last fall, a few months after Van Elslander sold the company to the private equity firm Thomas Lee, the company acquired Pennsylvania-based retailers Levin Furniture and Wolf Furniture. The company also has opened several Art Van Furniture franchised locations in the Midwest in the past year.

Known throughout the company as “Mr. Van,” Van Elslander also was honored on multiple occasions for his philanthropic work. Some of his best-known charitable efforts include a 1990 donation that saved Detroit’s famed Thanksgiving Day parade from extinction, and the annual Art Van Charity Challenge, a fundraising competition in which various charities compete for grants of up to $100,000.

He was a major benefactor of countless charities, including St. John Providence Health System, Focus: HOPE, Forgotten Harvest and the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph.

The family said it is appreciative of the outpouring of love and support, and requests privacy in their time of grief. Funeral arrangements are not yet confirmed.

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