Unclaimed Baggage Center
The Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro specializes in selling and displaying materials from luggage lost at airports. The Center originated in 1970 when the Owens family began purchasing unclaimed luggage bags from airports to sell for a profit. Over the years the business grew and today sells thousands of lost products. In addition to a store, the center also contains a museum displaying some of unique and rare items found in lost luggage, ranging from antiques to movie props.
Backstory and Context
In 1970, Doyle Owens headed to Washington D.C. with an idea, borrowed a pick-up truck, and a $300 loan to pick up his first load of unclaimed baggage. He began by selling the contents of the baggage on card tables in an old rented house. His venture was an instant success. He started the company with his wife Sue and their two boys. Their business grew to become the only lost luggage store in the United States. Over the next four decades, Owens formed formed relationships with airlines and other transportation companies across the country. Products from around the world started pouring into their Scottsboro, Alabama shop.
In the shop, customers/tourists can purchase unclaimed items in the store. Before items are put up for sale, all clothes are dry-cleaned and laundered in their in-house facility, fine jewelry is cleaned and appraised, and electronic equipment is tested and cleared of personal data. The items are then sorted into four categories: sale, donate, trash, and museum. The best items are sorted out for the retail floor. Items that are not of top quality are donated through Unclaimed Baggage Center's Reclaimed for Good program. This program helps people around the world. The items that are unsuitable for retail or donation, such as used hygiene products, are recycled or thrown away. Lastly, there is a category of interesting items that have made the Unclaimed Baggage Center's museum. Items that are too valuable eccentric are kept for the community to see. These items include 3,500-year-old Egyptian burial masks, a stuffed Canada goose, and Hoggle, the curmudgeonly dwarf puppet from the 1986 film Labyrinth (his picture is included below).
Today, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is owned by Doyle Owens' son, Bryan Owens. He purchased the business in 1995 and the shop now covers more than a city block. The Unclaimed Baggage Center is now one of Alabama's top tourist attractions with over a million visitors each year.
Unclaimed Baggage Center. Accessed December 10th 2019. https://www.unclaimedbaggage.com.
Foer, Joshua . Thuras, Dylan. Morton, Ella. Atlas Obscura. New York City, New York. Workman Publishing Co., 2016.