Gary Rogers, owner of Rogers Pool Patio & Toys on Middle Street in Lowell, has a huge collection of retro toys and games, including Rock ’Em Sock  Em
Gary Rogers, owner of Rogers Pool Patio & Toys on Middle Street in Lowell, has a huge collection of retro toys and games, including Rock 'Em Sock Em Robots, Hungry Hungry Hippos and the other items on this page. SUN PHOTOS / JULIA MALAKIE

The clamor and chaos of holiday shopping nears. Stores open on Thanksgiving. Black Friday lures stalwart shoppers, and Cyber Monday follows quickly after. Sandwiched in between is Small Business Saturday, a day designated to promote the discovery of locally owned shops.

The number of small, locally owned stores in Greater Lowell, however, means that Santa's elves have no need to limit shopping locally to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Don't fear the loss of Toys "R" Us or the closing of many Sears stores. In Lowell, come explore the shops on Merrimack, Market and Middle streets, Mill No. 5 on Jackson Street, and the Western Avenue Studios.

Rogers Pool, Patio & Toys, 150 Middle St., has an eclectic mix of toys, according to owner Gary Rogers.

As Rogers says, "We've been here for more than 70 years," and the toys that the store sells tend to show that history.

Tired of buying just video games for your kids? How about an Etch-a-Sketch? Spirograph? Or the classic Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots? Rogers is your place.

"We have more retro stuff, like Magic 8 balls and Slinkys," Rogers says.

The store also carries wooden sleds, baby sleds and snow tubes. Dolls and board games are part of the mix.

The Brush Art Gallery Studio Gift Shop, 256 Market St., is one of many options for those interested in the work of local artists. On Friday, Dec. 14 the Gallery is hosting a Soup and Shop event, and on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16, the shop will hold its an annual Sugar and Spice Holiday Marketplace.


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At 307 Market St., just on the other side of Dutton Street, Van Gogh's Gear is the place to buy gifts for both budding and established artists in your life. Owner Steve Syverson says he does a steady business all year, but during the holiday season, he often sees grandparents buying beginner kits for their grandchildren. The kits are available in virtually every medium.

For more established artists, he recommends gift certificates. "It's hard to buy for them. They know what they need."

On Jackson Street at the edge of downtown Lowell, Mill No. 5 is rife with shops filled with vintage and unique products that have attracted a devoted customer base. Jennifer Simone, the mill's events coordinator, says Saturdays, beginning Nov.

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24, will be alive with special markets.

On Small Business Saturday, Mill No. 5 vendors will have handmade items, such as jewelry and pottery, on offer. Dec. 1 follows with Bazaar Markets; Dec. 8 with Holiday Oddity Marketplace; and Dec. 15, the It's a Wonderful Life Market. The oddity market will have "strange and peculiar" vendors, Simone promises.

Individual shop owners will have their special offerings. For example, Lowell Cheesemonger owner Beth Salk will bring in luxury foods "such as truffles and infused maple syrups."

After stepping through the many and unique shop doors at the mill, the Luna Theater will offer respite from shopping with vintage holiday movies. Expect the theater's holiday schedule to be posted soon, Simone said.

"Santa's elves are busy" at Western Avenue Studios, according to Marketing Manager Patty Cullen.

The five-story converted industrial space plans two open studios events, Dec. 1-2 and Dec. 8-9. The Cooperative Art Gallery, entrance at Loading Dock A, will be open every day. The studios' calendar includes a Holiday Shopping Day on Thursday, Dec. 20, from 5 to 9 p.m., which Cullen says will be very gift-oriented.

Navigation Brewery, also located in the complex, and food trucks will offer sustenance for holiday shoppers, Cullen promises.

Western Avenue is located off School Street, between Middlesex and Broadway streets.

Chelmsford will spotlight its local shops with a Center Village Stroll on Saturday, Dec.

 8, from noon to 6 p.m. Shoppers are encouraged to visit all the shops in that space, including the Artisans' Exchange.

Opened a year ago, the Exchange has grown from 30 to 70 contributing artists and artisans. The shop will feature the work of one of those artists every Sunday with a trunk show.

On the calendar at the Exchange is a Men's Shopping Night on Dec. 13, says Carissa Campbell, one of the owners. The event -- the purpose of which is to encourage men to shop earlier than Christmas Eve -- will include beer-tasting and gift-wrapping. The beer will come from the Vinal Square Craft Beer House.

The Vinal Square establishment is a perfect stop for beer aficionados. It is a full-service package store that emphasizes the products of local distilleries.

Co-owner Kenny Pantuso highlights the "12 Beers of Christmas" gift boxes. Each beer is different and individually wrapped. And if 12 beers isn't enough for the beer-lover on your list, an "Advent Calendar" of 24 beers is also offered. Pantuso recommends putting your name on a sign-up sheet in the store now to minimize wait times at the cash register.

On your way from Chelmsford Center to Vinal Square, stop at Aunt Margaret's, a perfect place to buy gifts for knitters or crocheters on Santa's list. Its calendar includes a special Ladies Night on Monday, Dec. 3.

The craft shop, once located in downtown Lowell and now at 165 Princeton St., next to Mahoneys' Garden Center, is also a great place to buy stocking stuffers and Yankee swap items, says owner Judy Breitmayer.

With all these locally owned businesses, and many more besides, why go to a mall or shop online? The shopping experience in Greater Lowell might be far more interesting.