Photograph by Roger Davies, styling by Liezel Munez Gunn
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Opening a cheerful, quirky general store helped Francophile Kaari Meng rally against illness and find her own Hollywood ending. "I've always been about the hunt," Kaari says. "I love rummaging around to find that one treasure." Ten years ago, it was that pursuit—along with a deeply felt Francophilia inspired by her French great-grandmother and a Parisian college roommate—that prompted Kaari to ditch her career as a jewelry designer and create French General, an offbeat collection of textiles, window treatments and linens, among other products.
The trek proved tougher than Kaari had anticipated: As she prepared to expand her business into its first full-fledged store, in New York's SoHo district, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her parents and four siblings pitched in to help pull off the December 1999 opening, even shaving their heads in a show of solidarity with Kaari, who was still bald from chemotherapy. "It was," she says with a laugh, "a very interesting store opening."