The final day of The Packer’s Midwest Produce Conference & Expo, Aug. 15 in Chicago, will include tours of two Chicago retailers.

The “Urban Markets Tour,” to be held from 9 a.m. to noon, will include trips to a Shop and Save Market and a Mariano’s Fresh Market.

Both stores are located in the downtown Chicago area and are evidence of a resurgence of urban retail markets in the city core.

The last day of Midwest Produce also will include tours of the Chicago International Produce Market and two produce distributors, Testa Produce and the Anthony Marano Co.

The retail and wholesale tours provide an important learning opportunity for Midwest Produce attendees, said Shannon Shuman, publisher of The Packer.

“The last day of the event will be very educational with retail tours that will highlight some of the most modern urban retail trends, in addition to a behind the scenes look at the some state-of-the-art produce distribution operations.”

This tour will show the attendees how produce fits into the urban city environment.

Brian Holzkopf, director of produce for Des Plaines, Ill.-based Shop and Save, said Midwest Produce attendees will tour the chain’s Archer location in downtown Chicago, which opened about a year and a half ago.

Shop and Save opened its first store a decade ago, Holzkopf said.

The store tries to focus on a wide variety of products for shoppers and provides to the large Polish customer base in the area.

Fresh produce has played a central role in the chain’s success.

“When you go into the store, you don’t even see registers or groceries,” Holzkopf said. “Perishables are the first third of the store, and produce is the first focal point.”

As for Mariano’s Fresh Market, their produce department is a focal point too and the company was named a “Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Champion” by the Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Mariano’s boasts five locations in the Chicago area and tries to cater to ethnic backgrounds and specialty needs. Mariano’s try to offer many types of seasonal fruits and will offer a unique exotic produce if a customer requests it.

The company makes sure that fresh produce is available to the urban environment in every way. Mariano’s has a salad bar located in the store with fresh greens, fruits and many organic produce items.

One of the aims of the tour will be to let convention attendees see how seriously independent retailers take produce, Holzkopf said.

“We want to show it’s not just the big guys who are supporting the produce industry,” Holzkopf said.

Packer staff writer Kayla Banzet contributed to this report.