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      City officials encourage shoppers to buy local

      The stores are filling up, and gearing up for the Christmas season.

      All of them are hoping Black Friday will really bring their accounting books in the black.

      In Providence, the announcement of "Buy Providence, Buy Art" was in Wayland Square, where a cluster of businesses make a shopping destination.

      "It's a good walking area, so if you come and you park and you walk around, you'll see the diversity in the offerings of the store and hopefully drink some coffee, and stay and shop," said Sarah Abeles, who works at Reliable Gold.

      Mayor Angel Taveras has instituted free parking beginning on Friday through Jan. 1. And that helps the small merchants compete with the big box stores.

      "Free parking is very big because you don't have to worry about interrupting your shopping experience to feed the meter. You can come and you can plan to stay all day and go from place to place," said Laurie White of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.

      Warwick calls itself the retail center of Southern New England, and with two malls and the infamous Bald Hill Road strip, traffic is sure to be jammed.

      Come Friday, there will be more police officers controlling stoplights by hand to make sure traffic flows smoothly.

      Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian appreciates the boost to the local economy the retail giants bring, but also reminds shoppers that it's the small businesses that keep the city thriving.

      "We also have an incredible amount of small businesses here that are the backbone of our economy," he said.