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Published: Saturday, 9/8/2012

Start set for local Art Van store

Ground to be broken on Springfield Twp. ex-theater site

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
An artist's rendering shows the Art Van furniture store planned for the Super Cinemas theaters site at the eastern boundary of the Spring Meadows shopping complex adjacent to I-475/US 23. The store is to be the chain's first outside the state of Michigan. An artist's rendering shows the Art Van furniture store planned for the Super Cinemas theaters site at the eastern boundary of the Spring Meadows shopping complex adjacent to I-475/US 23. The store is to be the chain's first outside the state of Michigan.
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Starting Monday, bulldozers will begin tearing down the former National Amusements’ Super Cinemas theaters in Springfield Township to make way for a 90,000-square-foot Art Van Furniture superstore on the 14-acre site.

The store, announced in May and scheduled to open next summer, will be the first outside the state of Michigan in 53 years of business for Art Van, a suburban Detroit firm that has 34 locations and is the furniture industry’s largest family-owned independent chain.

But venturing outside Michigan into the Toledo area market, where the new store will create 100 jobs, wasn’t a hard decision for 82-year-old Art Van Elslander, the company’s founder and chairman.

“We’ve looked at Ohio for some time and we look at Toledo as just really part of the family,” Mr. Van Elslander said Friday during a formal groundbreaking for the store at 1301 E. Mall Rd. in the Spring Meadows Shopping Center. “Toledo is so close and we’ve been shipping there and we’ve had trucks in Toledo for a long time that we thought our presence here would make it easier to serve the entire community.”

But other factors also figured prominently in Art Van executives’ decision to make the Toledo area the first of what are to be several expansions outside Michigan. The company has studied the Toledo market for years and saw an opportunity.

“We looked at this market a lot and I happen to know this market is about the size of Grand Rapids,” Mr. Van Elslander said. “I know [families] have 2.3 children in this market. We did our homework and really studied it very well, and I also think there isn’t a dominant player here. I think that the market really is in need of this kind of service. So we’ll be fulfilling that need.”

Art Van, which had sales of $470 million in 2011, revealed this year that it has a new strategy to double its sales by 2022. But it cannot do so by confining its sales to Michigan. “I think we’ve saturated Michigan. My thought was to dominate Michigan — and we have, from wall to wall,” Mr. Van Elslander said. “We’re as far north as you can go … we cover the entire waterfront up there. And we have eight stores in the western part of Upper Michigan, so we’re ready to move out.”

“We have the leadership team, fortunately, because today it’s all about the team,” Mr. Van Elslander said.

Besides the superstore at Spring Meadows, Art Van plans to open three Toledo-area Art Van PureSleep stores — 4,000-square-foot stores that sell mattresses, pillows, and other bed accessories.

Each PureSleep store is to have three employees, the company said. The chairman said Art Van has secured sites in the Chicago area and plans to develop stores there.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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