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As time runs out on Art Van, some shoppers wait

Neal Rubin
The Detroit News

Dearborn — On the first day of the last days at Art Van Furniture, customers seemed to be more patient than perturbed.

There was disappointment that the 61-year-old company was liquidating, beginning an actual final sale at a chain known for offering dramatic, never-before-seen markdowns every week.

But the company's initial reduction — a 15% discount on most merchandise — left shoppers like Charles Slater of Allen Park willing to wait for a better offer.

"I was hoping for deeper discounts," he said Friday in the two-story Art Van emporium at Fairlane Meadows in Dearborn.

A shopper exits Art Van Furniture at  Fairlane Meadows in Dearborn on Friday.

Art Van, family-owned until 2017, expires with 190 furniture and mattress stores in its portfolio. Private equity fund Thomas H. Lee Partners LP had snapped up Art Van's assets and then 44 Levin Furniture and Wolf Furniture stores, 36 of which are scheduled to be repurchased by former owner Robert Levin.

The Art Van Furniture, Scott Shuptrine Interiors and PureSleep stores will vanish. Or at least, what's inside them will. The fate of nearly 200 ample buildings remains to be seen.

"I've been coming here since I was that big," said Slater, 70,  extending a hand hip-high. The last purchases for he and his wife Barbara, 72, will be a small sofa and a mattress, assuming further markdowns make it worth their while.

Charles and Barbara Slater of Allen Park came looking for a small sofa and a mattress, but were not swayed by the 15% discount on the first day of the Art Van liquidation.

On a windy day with brief spurts of snow, the parking lot was crowded, a classic case of where-were-you-when-we-needed-you.

Inside the picture window near the entrance, one sign advised that fixtures, furniture and equipment were for sale. A larger placard in festive yellow, orange and black said, "Everything must go!"

Carol Bates, 51, of Detroit walked past it as she went home. She'd seen a living room chair she liked, she said, but she was willing to risk losing it if that meant paying less in a week or two.

A 65-year-old Detroiter named Rita, who didn't want her last name used because she's avoiding a difficult ex-husband, saw a "sold" tag on a mattress she liked and called out to a salesman: "Sir! Got any more of these?"

He used to, the salesman said. The warehouse was thick with them. But there aren't any more coming in.

Twitter: @nealrubin_dn