Art Van Elslander founded Art Van in 1959, opening his first store in East Detroit. Van Elslander's furniture first business was a 4,000 square-foot space on Gratiot Avenue and 10 Mile Road. He expanded to three stores in that same year, and a fourth store opened in 1960. His first employee was not hired until this time. Art Vans Furniture (later changed to Art Van Furniture) opened with mostly modern and Danish-style furniture.