Michigan Stores Thriving

The largest of the three is Art Van Furniture with over 100,000 square feet in the Lansing store. Founded by Art Van Elslander in 1959 when he opened his first store in East Detroit, the company remains family owned and, with 30 stores in 29 Michigan cities, is the number one furniture retailer in Michigan and ranked in the top 10 of the leading 100 U.S. furniture stores by industry magazine Furniture/Today. In total, the company employs over 3,500 associates and operates 400 delivery and service vehicles.

Dustin Vanderhoof, Art Van store manager, said, “We offer furniture and accessories from over 200 manufacturers including such well-known companies as Broyhill, Lane and La-Z-Boy and pride ourselves on having the best selection in the state. There is no one style that predominates in our customers’ purchasing habits, but our contemporary lines have been doing very well recently. Over the past couple of decades, the market for home office furniture has grown, and we have a huge department featuring furniture and accessories to make working at home efficient without sacrificing style. Also a fairly recent addition to our stock is furniture for home theatres, including wall units which will adjust to fit any sized television and super-comfortable and luxurious seating.”

He added, “It used to be oak that was by far the most popular finish; we continue to offer oak, but we also carry many different kinds of wood furniture. Lately, a very popular finish has been merlot, a dark reddish/brown that is especially popular for living rooms and bedrooms.”

Art Van’s Clearance Center is a bonanza for bargain hunters. Featured are items which have been overstocked, as well as cancelled special orders and other items drastically marked down. As Vanderhoof declared, “It’s a new store every day!”

Art Van also offers online shopping and ordering at www.artvan.com.

According to Vanderhoof, “We have a highly trained staff as well as interior designers on staff who can help customers in the store or in their own homes at no charge. Our huge selection and competitive pricing are second to none. We strive to make the customers’ experience a good one from the time they walk in the door of Art Van right up to the delivery date.”

Continuing east on Saginaw Highway, you’ll find Peerless Furniture, in Lansing since 1993 but founded by the Pemberton family of Flint in 1926 and still family-owned. With over 45,000 square feet of floor space in the Lansing store, they offer a wide array of products and prices.

Christopher Dodos, director of sales, explained, “I’ve looked up the word ‘peerless’ in the dictionary and found that it means matchless or incomparable, and I think it describes our store well.

“Our products come from about 50 different suppliers, including some of the largest in the industry like Lane, England, Hooker and Broyhill. We’re well known for the variety of Flexsteel furniture that we carry; it’s a fairly priced, well-made brand that is very popular with our customers. We also carry a wide range of unique accessories.”

Jason Groothuis, floor manager, added, “Jim Pemberton has a passion for finding the unusual and eclectic in accessories. Our customers know that they will find things here that are definitely not run-of-the-mill.”

According to Dodos, “Our microfiber chairs, couches and other pieces are more and more popular. Microfiber feels and looks like high-grade suede but is easy to clean and wears well. Young families especially like it because they know that the kids can’t destroy it! It comes in lots of vibrant colors and is a top seller. We also continue to sell a lot of leather furniture.”

The store employs interior designers not only to set up the attractive room groupings throughout the store but also to be available for the customer who needs a little extra help in putting together that special look. These designers are available in the store but will also go out to customers’ homes for consultations. A unique feature on the Peerless website (www.peerlessfurn.com) is an “ask the designer” page where customers can submit their design questions and receive personalized answers.

Groothuis explained, “With the popularity of home design and decoration shows on HGTV and TLC, we find that our customers are increasingly savvy about creating the look they want for their homes. Our coordinated room groupings and design staff make it just that much easier for the furniture shoppers to select just the right thing to make their home look the way they want.

“We try and make the shopping experience relaxing and enjoyable for our guests. We are here to help and answer questions, but shoppers can be assured that there will be no high-pressure sales tactics. Satisfied and happy customers are our goal. We like to think that Peerless is ‘where beautiful homes begin.’”

The store is undergoing a face-lift and remodeling which should be completed sometime in February.

And farther east still is House of Denmark in Okemos on Marsh Road. Started in Toronto 30 years ago by John Beck, there are now seven stores in Michigan with the newest in Port Huron. The Okemos store has more than 9,000 square feet of floor space and is undergoing a huge renovation and remodeling, scheduled to be done in late winter.

According to acting store manager Barry Firsht, “We’ll be expanding our horizons by bringing in new designs and featuring new suppliers, but we’ll continue to carry the lines that have historically been popular with our customers.”

He added, “Our store has always featured contemporary Danish-style furniture; most of our wood pieces are made in Denmark, Norway and other Scandinavian countries as well as in Italy and France. Our upholstered pieces are mostly American made. We are unusual in that we carry only the contemporary style. Our customers know that they will find innovative styling and ingenuity in our store.”

Indeed, the clean lines, unique accessories, intricate slate insets and tile work on some pieces and bright, clear colors create an unmistakable ambiance of sleek modernism. You’d never mistake this for grandma’s old furniture—unless, of course, grandma came from Denmark!

Firsht said, “We’re probably best known for our stressless chairs, recliners and ottomans ergonomically designed to give incredible comfort. They come in different styles and sizes so the customers can find the one that’s perfect for them. Even though they are recliners and very comfortable, they still have a great look. People are surprised that something so attractive can be so comfortable.

“We also carry a full line of furniture for the home theatre. The individual pieces can be combined and modified to work for any home. Since its modular, it’s infinitely versatile. Colors, fabrics, sizes; we can make it work for you.”

House of Denmark is perhaps best known for its teak furniture, always popular. But Firsht noted, “We’ve recently started carrying a finish called espresso, which is a darker wood, and this is proving to be very popular. We also feature cherry and maple finishes.”

According to Firsht, “We aren’t one of the larger furniture stores in the area, but we feel we are small enough to be personal but large enough to have a unique and wonderful selection.”

Famed furniture designer Gustav Stickley said, “When a man’s home is born out of his heart and developed through his labor and perfected through his sense of beauty, it is the very cornerstone of life.” Each of these stores will help make that “cornerstone of life” a very pleasant place indeed!

Author: Jane Whittington
Photography: Terri Shaver


Art Van Furniture

8748 W. Saginaw Hwy.




Dustin Vanderhoof, Store Manager


House of Denmark Design

4794 Marsh Rd.




Barry Firsht, Store Manager


Peerless Furniture

3800 W. Saginaw Hwy.




Christopher Dodos, Director of Sales


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