How Merci Became a Home Decor Hot Spot
Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, founders of Bonpoint, the French children’s fashion company, sold their business in the mid-2000s and wanted a new venture. They thought that Paris needed a boutique that offered an enticing assortment of design, housewares, and fashion under one roof. The Cohens wanted to donate all of the profits to various charitable foundations in Madagascar, where they had produced much of their Bonpoint wares. The name they chose, Merci, was perfect. One of the couple’s first moves was to call Daniel Rozensztroch, then the creative director of Marie Claire Maison, a leading home design magazine, to help them realize their vision. “Marie-France asked me to spend a few hours to talk to her about it,” said Rozensztroch. The meeting turned into a full-time job as creative director—a brilliant move on the Cohens’ part.
Rozensztroch has turned the three-story, 16,000-square-foot space, a 160-year-old former fabric and wallpaper factory in Paris’ 3ème arrondissement, into an international phenomenon, with its beguiling mix of antique wares, cutting edge and casual fashion, and the best of what’s new in product design and furniture. Rozensztroch also orchestrates special exhibitions, including a show and sale of vintage ribbons discovered in an old factory in Saint-Etienne, France. He confessed, “Merci is all about my life and my taste.” Sadly, Bernard Cohen passed away in 2010, and his wife decided to sell the store. The Gerbi family, founders of fashion retailer Gérard Darel, took it over. While now a percentage of the profits go to Madagascar, Rozensztroch explained that the sales volume of the store has grown so much that the sum donated is virtually the same as before. He is very happy with the new owners. “They are business people with wonderful ideas,” he explained. “The future is not finished.”