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Bad Breakup: From Buying 27 Art Van Stores to Bankruptcy in Less Than a Year

Hot love affairs feel intoxicating. Dancing and drinking and romance burn like a red gasoline can tossed into a blazing bonfire. And then the forest goes up in flames. Midnight gives way to the sunshine, and you get to see what that other person looks like at the breakfast table.

That’s often when intoxicating turns toxic, and love is lost. 

Jeff Love is the founder and CEO of U.S. Assets, a private equity group based in Dallas, Texas. When his firm purchased 27 defunct Art Vans, he decided to spin up furniture stores in those same locations under a new name, his name. 

Love’s Furniture & Mattress was born. And then it pretty much died. 

According to U.S. Assets’ website, their investments include TexPlex Park, a 1,000-acre off-road adventure experience, Beef-A-Roo the Northern Illinois sliced-to-order hot beef bonanza, and Exceptional Pets a “head-to-tail veterinary and grooming services.” 

The four-wheel driving, beef-eating, puppy pamperers appear to have spent no time in the furniture and mattress business until this recent affair, which is now unraveling like a bad breakup. 

Even as the pandemic raged and some states mandated that furniture stores close, Jeff Love and his Lone Star State investment team decided to scoop up the Art Van stores, slap a new logo on the building, and hope that area shoppers would spend money on furniture and mattresses.  

Love’s opened its first seven stores in the greater Detroit area in the summer of 2020, and 15 more locations soon followed. 

Then things took a turn for the worse. 

Facing financial, delivery, and supply challenges, including a recent lawsuit by Southern Motion and subsidiary Fusion Furniture, claiming the retailer owed them more than $1.8 million, Loves filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early January and is preparing to liquidate its remaining stores.

According to a court document, 10 suppliers and other vendors are listed among Loves’ 20 largest unsecured creditors. Led by Lane Furniture, listed as United Furniture Inds., — with a $1.56 million claim — the suppliers are owed nearly $10 million combined.

Other industry-related unsecured creditors and their claims include: Southern Motion ($1.43 million); JB Hunt ($1.37 million); Flexsteel Inds. ($1.29 million); Steve Silver ($1.03 million); Samuel Lawrence Furniture ($766,044); Johnathan Louis ($768,017); Liberty Furniture ($608,532); Magnussen ($559,926); and Stearns & Foster ($528,195).

The initial petition, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s Eastern District of Michigan, lists estimated assets and debts both in the $10 million to $50 million range. 

Sometimes love burns hot before it goes cold. Ice cold.  

In a press release, Loves said it was “attempting to build a retail brand from the ground up and in record time with stores located in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. However, the start-up, significant and unforeseen warehouse and delivery issues, unplanned expenses, supply chain issues, and delayed store openings led to cash flow issues.”

“If passion and dedication were enough for a business to be successful, Loves would be highly profitable,” CEO Mack Peters also said in the release.

Like a steamy love affair unraveled, passion and dedication weren’t enough. 

Love’s said it will work with critical stakeholders to protect customers who placed deposits, but the arrangements must be approved by the court and are subject to modification. We’ll be watching and let you know what happens. 

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