Van Elslander, who built Art Van Furniture into a MI and Chicago powerhouse over almost 60 years before selling to private equity last year, died today.
In 1990, with the iconic Detroit tradition in danger of shutting down due to lack of funding, Van Elslander stepped in with a $200,000 donation to keep it rolling.
He opened his first store in 1959, the sole proprietor of a 4,000 square foot shop on Gratiot Avenue in East Detroit, and headed Art Van Furniture to almost 4,000 associates and more than 100 Art Van Furniture locations.
Art Van Furniture ultimately grew to more than 100 stores throughout the Midwest with almost 4,000 employees before selling the business in early 2017.
In a statement, Duggan said furniture may have been Van Elslander's business, but Detroit always has been his heart.
Art Van has been a MI furniture company since 1959.
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Van Elslander is credited with saving Detroit's Thanksgiving parade.
There will never be another "Art Van".
Additional details, including funeral arrangements, were not immediately available at press time.
Grosse Pointe Shores City Manager Mark Wollenweber said by email that when the lakefront house was constructed, "It was one of the most expensive here in Grosse Pointe Shores".
Van Elslander also helped rebuild the organization, according to reports at the time.
Like many, Wollenweber is familiar with Van Elslander's contributions to America's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
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"(He was) just a great man", the Parade Company's Tony Michaels told WWJ's Roberta Jasina.
Born in 1930 in Detroit, Michigan, Mr. Van Elslander was the son of a Belgian immigrant.
His family foundation was the largest contributor to the St. John Providence Health System, providing the lead donations for a number of capital projects.
Van Elslander was the ideal example of how personal success can translate to the public good.
Yost believes that much can be learned from Van Elslander's legacy.
Art's kindness and generosity seemed to have no limits. "The world has lost a larger-than-life individual and a great friend". "His gifts to our health system - and to many other charitable programs in MI and beyond - have had immeasurable impact on the quality of life for individuals and families within the community".
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