Better Than Soap
She was half of supercouple Luke and Laura on TV's perennially popular soaper "General Hospital."
Now, married in real life to "Star Trek" actor-director Jonathan Frakes, Genie Francis is a budding entrepreneur in Belfast, launching a home furnishings store in a community far from the bold and beautiful of Hollywood.
Well, not that far.
On Tuesday, the same week Francis and Frakes have been touting the grand opening of her store, The Cherished Home, on Route 1 in Belfast, ABC announced that she will return to "General Hospital" this fall.
The idea is to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Luke and Laura's TV wedding, which was seen by 30 million viewers on Nov. 16, 1981. It has been billed as the most-watched "event" on daytime TV.
ABC said she will appear in a series of episodes beginning in the middle of October. Four years ago, her character suffered a mental breakdown after she killed her father, and Laura has been living at a psychiatric hospital.
Fracis, 44, joined the cast of "General Hospital" when she was 14 and spent much of her television life in the fictional town of Port Charles. She has left the show several times, most recently in 2002.
Over the years, Francis said, when things got stressful on the set, she would drive to her favorite fabric store in Los Angeles and lose herself in the textures and colors.
She had a habit of examining the furnishings on the "General Hospital" sets, she said in an interview Wednesday, and she developed a keen interest in antiques and always dreamed of having a shop.
Francis decided to live out that dream once her young and restless family convinced the couple to move to Maine.
Los Angeles, she said, was far darker than Belfast. "It's not a gentle place to raise a child."
Francis and Frakes, 55, who played Cmdr. William Riker on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and directed the movie "Star Trek: First Contact," have made their home in Belfast for the past year after being longtime summer visitors. They have owned a home in Belfast for six years.
The couple's two children, Jameson "Jameo," 11, and Eliza, 9, attend the local schools.
"We came here [on vacation] and we fell in love with it," Francis said of Belfast. "Seeing the seasons, catching fireflies, having campfires on the beach. We were just so happy and our kids were so free and running around. It just felt like a normal life to me."
In Belfast, she wants nothing to do with comas, amnesia or accidentally killing a secret lover.
Her new business is located in an 1850s-era farmhouse on Route 1 on the city's east side. Rather than focus on antiques, Francis said, she wanted to provide area homeowners with a choice of items previously not available to them.
The Cherished Home store has two floors filled with bedding, sleepwear, rugs, tableware and glassware.
"I found things that are whimsical and fun. Things where I felt the midcoast was light," she said. "I tried to bring in things that were missing, that I was missing. I love it; I love doing this."
Much of the shop's focus is on wares designed by Anne Selke, under the Pine Cone Hill, Dash and Albert, and Potluck Studios labels.
"I love the way they go together," Francis said of Selke's designs. "She's doing something wonderful with a modern, fresh, country look."
Francis said she could not have pulled together the business without the assistance of Belfast residents and guiding lights Cindy Lloyd and Lynne Doubleday, who helped with purchasing and merchandising, and Cindy Porter of Fryeburg, who helped her develop the concept.
On Friday, she will celebrate the grand opening of The Cherished Home from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (877) 338-4111 or visit thecherishedhome.com.
As for "General Hospital," "They have me in a coma now. That's my first long-time coma," she said with a chuckle Wednesday. "That's the beauty of that job. You can make reappearances for years."
Photo caption: Genie Francis of "General Hospital" fame is opening a home furnishings and gift store called The Cherished Home in Belfast on Friday. This is Francis' first full year living in the area with her family. "To me, home is just a little bayside community," she said of choosing to live in Maine.