AUGUSTA — To Janine Collins, the spot in the corner of her new rock shop where Levi “Sonny” Chavarie used to hold court will forever be Sonny’s spot.

And just to make sure everyone else knows what inspired her to reopen Sonny’s Museum and Rock Shop in downtown Augusta, the wall just behind where Sonny sat, looking out onto Water Street, is done up as a tribute to Collins’ late, dear friend Chavarie, and his also late wife Priscilla. It features photographs of them both, as well as newspaper articles about their shop and other memorabilia, and a big tub of polished stones with the words the gregarious Chavarie used to tell children to encourage them to reach in and take a stone.

“That’s still Sonny’s spot,” Collins, 52, of Winthrop, said recently inside 226 Water St. as several friends and family members scurried about, readying the shop for its grand re-opening Saturday.

Collins, with help from her husband, Michael Van Ginkel, purchased the massive inventory of rocks, minerals, gems, fossils and gifts of the shop from Manchester Community Church. Chavarie, an active member of the church, had left the collection to the church upon his death last October at the age of 91.

The shop is scheduled to reopen under Collins’ ownership Saturday, fulfilling, if in a somewhat roundabout way, Chavarie’s previously stated desire to sell the store to someone who shared his passion and would keep it going.

The tribute wall is far from the only way the presence of Chavarie can be found in the shop.

Collins said she hopes to retain the child-friendly approach Chavarie took, including his desire that kids, even if they or their parents didn’t buy anything, leave the shop with some newfound knowledge about the geological treasures that lined the shop’s shelves. It won’t, she said, be a “don’t touch that!” kind of operation.

“It’s going to be very kid-friendly. I really want families to know this is for kids,” Collins said. “Sonny loved kids. And I have grandkids, so I want kids to be able to come here. I want people to feel welcome here.”

Collins, who works for the state but plans to run the store full time eventually, said Chavarie had told her he wanted her to buy the shop and continue it, but she didn’t think she could afford to do so.

After Chavarie died, and the store closed and appeared unlikely to ever reopen, she approached the church’s pastor, the Rev. Donald Davenport, to inquire about buying the shop’s contents, which Chavarie had left to the church.

“I approached the church and, even though I didn’t think I’d have enough money, I made an offer, and they accepted,” Collins said, without disclosing the purchase price. “They said Sonny would have wanted that.”

Collins said she couldn’t open the shop without help, and shared investment, from her husband.

Collins signed a six-year lease for the Water Street shop in the heart of the city’s downtown. The building is owned by Richard Parkhurst.

“I think it’s great. They’re trying to keep Sonny’s legacy going. I think they’ll do a great job,” Parkhurst said of Collins and her friends and family working to reopen the store. “They’ve got a heck of an inventory. They’ve probably got five years of inventory in the basement alone.”

Parkhurst, a downtown developer and a leader of efforts to restore the Colonial Theatre, which also is downtown but currently vacant, said the unique shop is a good business to have there because people come to shop there specifically, but once they are downtown, they might also check out what else is there.

“It’s one of those places that is a destination,” he said. “It may not be as popular as, say, a restaurant or coffee shop, but it’s one more segment in the variety of things offered there. The more eclectic stuff we can put on the street, the better.”

The shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Sandy Jackson, who previously worked in the shop with Chavarie, and Crystal Parson, will help in the shop when Collins can’t be there. Jackson said she’s happy the shop is reopening.

It will feature the rocks, minerals and fossils sold at the store before and at the former Winthrop Mineral Shop, which Sonny and Priscilla ran previously, as well as new offerings including handmade jewelery and hemp bracelets and necklaces, books about the healing properties of crystals, with those same crystals available at the shop. A new addition to the shop is a room dedicated to reiki, an alternative form of healing, where reiki classes will be offered. Also, probably by appointment and when a medium is on site, psychic mini-readings will be offered.

In a November 2015 interview, Chavarie said Priscilla, who died in 2010, loved to buy rocks, fossils and related items, and he liked to sell them.

He opened Sonny’s Museum and Rock Shop in 2011 and decorated much of the front of the store with photographs and newspaper articles about Priscilla.

However, in 2012 a lawsuit was filed by members of his late wife’s family, claiming he didn’t have the right to sell the items he was selling at the shop because they belonged to her estate, not him.

An out-of-court agreement signed by both parties about a month after the lawsuit was filed stipulates the inventory of the store was Chavarie’s to sell.

Collins said while she doesn’t have the expertise with rocks and minerals of Sonny or Priscilla, who was an accomplished rock hound and founder of the Kennebec Rocks and Minerals Club, she is a rock hound and she has help from club members, Jackson and others in learning about the shop’s extensive inventory.

Collins did the bookkeeping for Chavarie’s shop, and she helped him at his Winthrop home. She said he was like a father to her, and she loved him. When she was young, she also used to ride her bicycle to the former Winthrop Mineral Shop, mostly to see Sonny.

She said the Water Street basement is so stocked with rocks, she invited rocks and minerals club members, two weekends in a row, to come buy whatever of the items in the basement they wanted, for $35 per pound. She said they bought, in one day, 1,216 pounds of items, but a huge inventory remains to be sold. She said she plans to attend gem shows to look for new items to bring back to sell at the shop.

“I’m a rock hound, and what could be better for a rock hound than to have a rock shop?” Collins said. “Why not have everything I love in one place?”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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