• Founder of Art Van Furniture dies at 87

    Archie Van Elslander, the founder of Art Van Furniture, has died at age 87.

    Company spokeswoman Diane Charles said Van Elslander, known as Art Van, had cancer.

    In a statement posted to the Art Van Furniture Facebook page on Monday, Gary Van Elslander, president of Van Elslander Capital and Van Elslander’s eldest son, said “My family is heartbroken by the loss of our father.”

    Van Elslander was born in Detroit in 1930. He opened his first furniture store in 1959 in what is now Eastpointe.

    That business eventually grew into Art Van Furniture, a major furniture retailer with over 100 locations throughout the Midwest. The business was sold in 2017 to Thomas H. Lee Partners.

    Van Elslander was also well-known in the state for his philanthropic work.

    “With a seemingly limitless capacity for giving, Mr. Van Elslander was one of Michigan’s most generous and beloved philanthropists,” the Facebook statement reads. “When Detroit’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade was in financial peril in 1990, Mr. Van Elslander made an historic donation that saved this cherished tradition. For the next 25 years, he personally rode in the parade, waving to crowds along the route. 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. He leaves behind an indelible print on the hearts of many, and will be sorely missed.”

    The Archie A. Van Elslander Trust was listed as the owner for properties at three Bay Harbor addresses as of 2016, according to Emmet County records. There are also area Art Van Furniture stores located in Petoskey and Gaylord.