Community worried about loss of Art Van

ONAWAY – Business owners and city officials in Onaway are concerned for the community’s future in the wake of the announcement that Art Van Furniture will close its store in the city.

In a release dated April 5, Art Van announced it will close the store in May. The decision comes as it prepares to open a new store in Gaylord. Art Van Elslander, company founder and chairman, said in the release the company needed to evaluate its existing stores.

“With stores in Traverse City, Petoskey, Alpena, plus Gaylord, we believe we can effectively service the northern Michigan communities and have decided to close our Onaway store in May,” he said in the release. “This is not a decision we have come to lightly, and every effort will be made to find new positions within the company for our Onaway associates.”

Art Van’s Onaway store employs 25 people, Director of Corporate Communications Diane Charles said. The company is looking for a new business for the building, or to donate it to the community “so it remains a vibrant part of the community.”

Mayor Gary Wregglesworth said the loss of jobs and one of the city’s biggest taxpayers will be bad for the community. Art Van’s closure could hurt other businesses as well.

“That type of business in town draws a lot of other residual business,” he said.

Mike Parrott, owner of Parrott’s Outpost, echoed that comment. He believes the closure could hurt his sporting goods business as well as others in town. On top of that, several Art Van employees are his customers.

“I definitely think it’s going to have a negative impact on us,” he said.

For Les Tennant, Wood Winds Restaurant general manager, it’ll be the first time he can remember that he won’t be able to buy furniture in his own town. Before Art Van came to town, the store was known as Brewbakers. Once the store’s closed, it’ll no longer draw people from outside of town, people who may have stopped to eat at the restaurant.

“Everyone that I’ve spoken to thinks it’s a really sad thing,” he said. “We’re hoping some other business will come in, replace those jobs and bring more people to Onaway.”

Wregglesworth said he believed the store suffered after taking over Brewbakers and selling off the inventory, possibly flooding the furniture market. After that, a faltering, then stagnant economy likely hurt the store sales.

With Art Van stores in bigger population centers nearby, like Alpena and Petoskey, it no longer makes sense to have a store in Onaway, Wregglesworth said.

“It’s unfortunate. No one I know around town sees anything good coming out of it,” he said. “Maybe there’s a silver lining to it, but I don’t know what it is right now.”

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at