Art Van founder, philanthropist Art Van Elslander dead at 87

Art Van Elslander
An undated courtesy image of Art Van Elslander. (Art Van/Facebook)

DETROIT, Mich. (WOOD) — The founder and namesake of Art Van Furniture has died.

Archie “Art” Van Elslander was surrounded by his family when he passed away Monday, according to the company he created. He was 87 years old.

“We lost a Legend (sic) today,” Art Van Furniture posted on its Facebook page late Monday morning.

Art Van’s eldest son, Gary Van Elslander said his family is heartbroken by the loss, but appreciates the outpouring of love and support as they grieve in private.

Art Van Elslander was born in 1930 to a Belgian immigrant father in Detroit. He grew up in the Motor City selling newspapers and working in his father’s bar until he discovered his love of fashion working at a menswear store at 14 years old.

After graduating from high school and serving in the U.S. Army, Art Van Elslander started working at Gruenwald Furniture. He opened his first store on Gratiot Avenue in East Detroit, now known as Eastpointe, in 1959.

Art Van Furniture grew to include more than 120 locations across the Midwest before the business was sold last year to Thomas H. Lee Partners, a private equity firm based in Boston.

Art Van’s philanthropy also spread across the state. His name graced many events in Michigan, including Grand Rapids’ Art Van Santa Parade and Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day parade. He also donated to countless charities, including The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan through the Art Van Charity Challenge.

Funeral arrangements for Art Van Elslander are pending.