DETROIT – Art Van Furniture officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Sunday night.
The furniture store will close all company-owned stores in at least five states as the retailer heads toward liquidation after more than 60 years in business.
Liquidation sales are underway but ran into some problems over the weekend. They’re expected to resume at 2 p.m. Monday.
“Despite our best efforts to remain open, the company’s brands and operating performance have been hit hard by a challenging retail environment,” Art Van spokeswoman Diane Charles said in a statement. “We recognize the extraordinary retail, community and philanthropic legacies that Art Van Furniture has built for decades in the community.”
Archie “Art” Van Elslander opened his first store in 1959 in suburban Detroit. The company was sold in 2017 to a private equity firm, and Elslander died the following year at age 87.
“Retail bankruptcies have been blossoming over the last four or five years,” said Pat O'Keefe, chief executive of O'Keefe Consulting in Bloomfield Hills. “People who have not developed an internet, digital media presence have suffered. ... I think retail will continue to decline as internet shopping increases.”
Art Van operates stores in nine states under various brands. Stores in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio are expected to close.
Mayor Jim Fouts said Art Van is the city of Warren’s top taxpayer at more than $2.2 million per year. He also called the closings “devastating” and said the company’s Warren location has 262 employees.
The city will look into marketing the Warren “site for a future company that would invest and save the jobs of those who have been terminated,” Fouts said.
Art Van also has been a regular sponsor of the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in Detroit. In 1990, Van Elslander wrote a $200,000 check for the parade as the event struggled with failing finances.
“It’s probably one of the most gratifying things I’ve ever done,” Van Elslander said in 2015. “Because when you see the lives that you’ve been able to affect, it’s pretty cool.”
In 2015, Art Van customers in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois who bought furniture, TVs and mattresses on certain days that January got their merchandise free of charge due to a company promotion.
Art Van had bet customers that if it snowed more than 3 inches in each of the Toledo, Fort Wayne and Chicago areas on Super Bowl Sunday that it would refund the purchase price on the items. A winter storm dumped more than a foot of snow in some places.
Nearly 3,000 shoppers at nine stores in the three states were able to get their furniture for free. At the time, Art Van said the offer applied to $2.5 million in sales.