Long before we had a chance to visit this Scottsboro, Alabama store in person, we had it at the top of our bucket list. Little did we know just how amazing this place would actually be. There was no possible way we could have imagined this store until we actually laid eyes on it. When we entered the doors of this massive warehouse, we were instantly welcomed into the business by some of the most hospitable employees. From the door, we slowly started learning the history of this world-renowned enterprise.
Doyle Owens knew hard work and how to make a dollar. Being a third-generation entrepreneur, he knew an opportunity when he saw it. So, in 1970, one of those opportunities arose. He borrowed a pickup truck and got a $300 loan and drove to Washington, D.C. where he bought his first unclaimed baggage from the Trailways Bus Line. Once back in Alabama, he sold the contents and the locals loved this new venture! It was so popular that he quit his full-time insurance job and the rest is literally history! Originally, the business was only open on Wednesdays and Sundays but in 1978, Doyle landed his first airline contract with Eastern Airlines. There was so much unclaimed luggage coming in that they had no choice but to open the business 6 days a week. Eventually, these relationships and contracts led Unclaimed Baggage to being the country’s only lost luggage store.
In 1995, Doyle’s son Bryan and his wife Sharon purchased the business and expanded it to cover more than a city block. That same year, Oprah called Unclaimed Baggage Center America’s “best kept shopping secrets,” and the flood of visitors and media outlets came from all over the world. Since then, the store has been featured in Vogue, HuffPost, BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TODAY, and even the Travel Channel.
Last year was a huge year for the store as they celebrated their 50th Anniversary and launched their online store in June. However, even though the online store allows you to see all the amazing items that have been found and are for sale, there is simply nothing like wandering the isles and wondering what you might find next. You can only imagine, with luggage now coming in from all over the world, the chance of finding something really strange and unique is pretty high. But, what if I told you that a Birkin Bag with a price tag of $18,000 was found?
Or a 40.95 Colombian Emerald that was sold for $17,000. Our personal favorite is the Gucci suitcase that was full of artifacts dating back to 1500BC, the time of Moses. It included an Egyptian burial mask and a preserved falcon, both which were auctioned at Christie’s. Additionally, celebrity clothing, suits of armors, Beethoven’s 1814 Symphony, and even an Amazonian shrunken head have made their way through the doors of the Unclaimed Baggage Center. There is no doubt, every day is something different for the people who sort through all the bags. After our visit, Brandi decided her dream job would be to research and write about the items that make their way into the store.
Beyond the amazing items that sell every day in their store, Unclaimed Baggage Center has always been a business that gives back. As part of their Reclaimed for Good Foundation, they partner with organizations at the local, state, and national level and work to repurpose and distribute non-retail items to those in need.
We hope we have convinced you to go visit our friends at Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama. They are located at 509 West Willow Street in Scottsboro. They are open Monday-Friday from 9am-6pm and Saturdays from 8am-7pm. You can also visit and shop at unclaimedbaggage.com