Deborah Thomas of Toledo 'spun and won' an item from 92.5 KissFM’s Sara Hegarty, right, during Sunday’s grand opening of Art Van’s flagship store in Springfield Township.
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
They came for the fun, they came for the food, they came for the prizes. But mostly, they came for the furniture.
More than 500 people patiently and politely filed into the Art Van Furniture store at 1301 E. Mall Dr., Springfield Township, during the opening minutes Saturday morning of Art Van’s 90,000-square-foot flagship store’s grand opening.
Some were motivated by the prospect of a free gift — a personal coffeemaker given to the first 500 through the doors.
But most, it turned out, were there to see what Art Van, Michigan’s dominant furniture retailer, is bringing to the Toledo area with its new megastore, the company’s first retailing site outside its home state.
John Sayre of Monclova Township was among the early arrivals, but he didn’t come for free gifts, face-painting, food, music, or the St. John’s Jesuit High School marching band, which strutted into the store at 9:30 a.m. to ramp up the fun. Mr. Sayre came to buy, specifically, a chair for his vacation home.
“I used to live in Jackson, Michigan, and Lansing and I’ve always bought my furniture from Art Van,” he said. “I love this store. I have been quietly waiting for them to come here.”
Twenty minutes later, Mr. Sayre had bought a red chair. “I have retro decor and this will match perfectly,” he said.
Ann Hodson of Monclova Township came just to check out the merchandise, but in just 10 minutes she had bought a chair and ottoman, and she went back inside to price bedroom furniture.
“I think it’s just wonderful that they’ve come here and brought all these jobs,” she said.
Nearly 300 people lined up outside the store by 8:50 a.m. for the 9 a.m. grand opening.
“Have you been in here yet?” store manager Bill Salisbury asked one couple walking into the new store, which replaced a former cinema complex in the Spring Meadows Shopping Center. “We were at the one in Taylor [Mich.] just last week,” the woman replied.
“Oh, blueprints!” Mr. Salisbury said excitedly after spotting a woman carrying what seemed to be a housing floor plan. “Serious shopper here,” the woman responded.
“ ‘Bout time y’all decided to come down from Michigan,” an elderly lady said as she made her way past Mr. Salisbury. “Now we don’t have to drive up to Michigan anymore,” said a woman behind her.
By 9:20 a.m. the last ticket for a free coffeemaker had been handed out, and several customers were heading out the door with chairs, ottomans, lamps, lampshades, and sales receipts for items scheduled for delivery. The customer service desk had a line of 20 people waiting to make purchases.
“This is better than we expected,” Mr. Salisbury said. “We were expecting to do well down here, but the response has been overwhelming.”
Art Van, based in Warren, Mich., held an unadvertised “soft” opening Aug. 31 at the store, which it calls “Art Van 3.0” because it includes a sleep shop, electronics, appliances, flooring, a clearance center, and other departments all under one roof.
Mr. Salisbury said executives thought customer traffic would be slow at first but, surprisingly, “We’ve been overrun every day since we opened.”
“It’s a salesman’s dream,” Martin Henry, a floor sales consultant, said of the grand opening. “We have a ton of people in here and they’re buying. We have more people wanting to buy things than we have people selling,” he added.
But the person in the store with the biggest smile Saturday likely was company president Gary Van Elslander, son of company founder Art Van Elslander.
“I’m just absolutely thrilled,” the company president said. “This is a new format store for us, it’s the first of its kind in our chain, and through the soft opening a week ago, to our [VIP] party on Thursday night and now, I guess ultimately the payoff is seeing all these customers come through the door, staying and shopping, looking for product, hearing the positive comments. This certainly exceeds our expectations.”
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.