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CEDAR FALLS — A longtime Cedar Valley furniture store, for decades independently owned, will close by the end of this year.

Art Van Furniture — formerly Simpson Furniture — will close its Cedar Falls location with the retirement of president Dale Emmert.

Emmert announced the closing on stage recently before a Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center performance, and said letters had been sent to Art Van’s longtime customers.

“I’ve had a lot of health issues, quite a few surgeries — I’ve been at it 34 years,” Emmert told The Courier on Thursday. “I figured now was as good a time as any.”

The store will close “probably within the next 60 to 90 days,” Emmert said.

He said the Coralville location will remain open, and a few of his 30 employees may find work there. But there was no succession plan for his retirement.

“We talked to different people, but (there was) nothing that came to fruition,” Emmert said.

The store opened as independently owned Simpson Furniture at 515 Main St. in downtown Cedar Falls in 1946. In January 1983, a fire destroyed the Main Street store, and the owners rebuilt and were back in business by that October, according to Courier archives.

Emmert started at the store in 1984 while a student at the University of Northern Iowa, and “never left,” he said.

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“I just fell in love with the business and stayed on,” he said.

The business underwent three expansions, eventually acquiring the 2300 Main St. property, which started as a warehouse and then became its Rooms 4 Less outlet store. The Coralville store opened in 2009.

Simpson sold its downtown Cedar Falls building in 2011 and moved to the Room 4 Less location following extensive remodeling. It then switched to an Art Van franchise in order to stay open, Emmert said.

“It was kind of tough — we’d been Simpson for years — but independents are having real struggles,” he said. “Art Van is one of the strongest franchises out there and real strong in the Midwest.”

When he started in the business, most furniture was made in the United States, Emmert said. Now, it’s all made overseas, meaning lower prices for customers and lower profit for furniture stores, he said.

Still, Emmert said, he’ll miss his employees and customers.

“I’d just like to thank them — they’re terrific, loyal customers, generations of them — and I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said. “It’s a tough decision, but sometimes you have to make those in life.”

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