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Categorized | Business, Featured

Art Probst retires

By Tom Noreen

For 66 years, the Probst family name hung on the store at 326 North Main Street in Cedar Springs. Carl and Dorothy Probst opened the store in the fall of 1953. They bought the store from Sherry Olin. Olin owned a new furniture store in Sparta and sold used furniture in Cedar Springs. Carl made the jump from real estate to furniture and floor coverings at the urging of his friend Leo Conklin, who owned a retail furniture store in Grand Rapids. Shortly after buying the store, the Probst family (Carl, Dorothy, Art, Don, and Dave) moved from Grand Rapids to Cedar Springs.  

Art, the oldest of the three boys, began working at the store as soon as it opened. During the school year, he commuted to Ottawa High School where he graduated in 1954. Art took over the floor covering side of the business. He attended the Armstrong floor installation school where he learned how to lay carpet and linoleum. Throughout his career, flooring was Art’s forte. 

I asked Art what he missed the most about retiring? He said, “I miss the people the most. There are great people in the Cedar Springs area. I enjoy helping people. Customers would come into the store knowing that they wanted a new floor but had no idea what they wanted to put on it. Guiding them through the options to a decision was what I liked to do.”

Art met his wife, Carolyn, at the 5th Wheel Truck Stop (now Classic Kelley’s) in 1958. Carolyn graduated from Cedar Springs High School that year and went to work for her mother, Dorothy Brooks, who owned the restaurant. Art would walk next door to the restaurant for lunch and they got to know each other. In 1961 they were married. They had two sons, Alan and Kurt. Alan and his family live in Texas and Kurt recently passed away. 

Carolyn came to work at the store. Art said she was good with colors and decorating doing interior design. Customers would ask her to help match flooring, paint, wall paper and furniture.

In 1966, Art and Carolyn took over the store from Carl and Dorothy. As the business grew, they added onto the store three times in the 1970s. 

Art said one of the most challenging aspects of the business was keep up with the trends and introducing new items to customers. The store carried a wide range of furniture and flooring brands to offer customers the best selection possible. Art said he was thankful for the many loyal customers he had over the years. I know that my parents and in-laws shopped there. The only piece of new furniture we ever bought was from Art and Carolyn!

In 2008, Carolyn decided it was time to retire. She also wanted Art to retire but Art said, “I wasn’t ready yet.” At that point, they liquidated the furniture side of the business and concentrated on floor coverings and window treatments. Art was back where he started in 1953.

Over the last few years, his son Kurt kept urging him to retire “while he could get out and enjoy life.” After 66 years and the oldest family run business on Main Street, it was time to take down the sign. Unfortunately, Kurt passed away before the business was sold to Lori Gates and Joan Dewey. They plan to continue the floor covering business.

Art is a charter member of the Cedar Springs Lions Club. Since 1959, Art has proudly worn his Lions vest serving others around the community. 

In the mid-70s, Art served on the Cedar Springs City Council and as Mayor. He still serves on the City’s Tax Board of Review.

When they were still selling furniture, they would loan pieces to the Cedar Springs Community Players to use during their productions. This is just one of the ways they helped around the community. Art would drop the items off and pick them up when the show was done.

At present, Art and Carolyn have no plans other than to stay in Michigan. They visit their son, Alan, in Texas a couple of times each year. 

I asked Carolyn about how it was to have Art home all the time? She jokingly replied, “I told him he had to go out and get a job!”

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