The smell of burning incense, the sound of distant chanting and the soft glow of the warm lights activate your senses as you step onto the rock-covered ground of a shop that is nearly nothing but rocks, gems and minerals.
But it is not the visage of an eerie shopkeeper — like something out of an ’80s horror movie — that greets you when you enter the Crystal Rainbow Rock Shop. Rather, owner Mimi Musgrave is a smiling face and a warm, friendly presence. And she loves all things rocks.
“As a little girl I could not stop picking up rocks,” said Musgrave, who frequented the rock shop down the street from her Los Angeles home as a child. “I always wanted to open a rock shop.”
Musgrave actually became a metal smith and jewelry-maker and learned how to set stones, which took a toll on her back and neck and made her even more grateful for the ability to fulfill her childhood dream.
“It’s a good life, and I love doing the shop. This is sort of like a show every day,” Musgrave said.
The ability of Musgrave to be surrounded by the healing properties of the stones has improved her life, she said.
“I feel so much more balanced and aware,” Musgrave said. “I really think it’s from being surrounded by minerals all the time.”
Crystal Rainbow Rock Shop at 310 Commercial St. in Nevada City was opened in 1982 by Don Morey, an absolute “rock hound” and lover of crystals and minerals, Musgrave said.
Morey left the shop to his daughter, Crystal, when he passed away in 2003, and she wanted to keep the shop open somehow, even though she lived all the way in the Bay Area, said Musgrave, who heard about the sale of the store through a coworker at the time.
“It was like a serendipitous sort of magic,” said Musgrave, who took ownership of the store about six years ago and turned the store into more of a fine gem and mineral shop. “It’s the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
Musgrave said she lives a very humble life in a communal situation with her three children and two grandchildren.
“If the business supports itself and I’m eating, I’m happy,” Musgrave said. “I don’t worry about making a lot of money.”
One of the perks of the store is the information she gleans from customers, some of whom are experts.
“Unlike most businesses, my interaction with a customer is really intense,” Musgrave said. “I had a geologist come in, and he talked about the different layers of rock in the earth’s surface.”
The location has been around for many years and has with it the typical folklore of Nevada City, laden with stories of ghosts and spirits, said Musgrave, who described a story about a customer who felt a presence in the store.
“She was kind of shaking and said, ‘Is there a death associated with this place? I can feel him. He’s on the deck sitting here,’ and I showed her the picture of Don, where he was sitting on the deck, and she said, ‘That’s him!’”
Musgrave said she has never personally witnessed or felt a spirit, though she has experienced strange things.
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen or felt anything, but there are very odd things that happen, like something will disappear and reappear,” Musgrave said. “It’s a trickster, whatever it is.”
To build her stock, Musgrave attends the largest gem and mineral show each year in Tucson and chooses items that speak to her.
“I go intuitively. I do go with a friend of mine who has a store and is a very good shopper and keeps lists of things,” Musgrave said.
Musgrave is eager to show the different elements of the store’s 9-by-9-foot space, which she packs full of all sorts of items, from moonstones and quartz to the Indian shiva lingum stone, the black jade from Australia and the 2 billion-year-old Russian shungite stone.
“It’s a work of art, an ongoing sculpture,” Musgrave said. “It’s not only a treat for eyes but for spirit.”
To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4230.