Scottsboro, Ala., store is a marvel of travelers' unclaimed loot
Q: I remember a column you wrote about someplace in Alabama where there's a store that sells luggage and other items that haven't been claimed at airports. I wanted to keep the column for future reference because I thought I'd like to drive there sometime to see if I could pick up some bargains. Now I'd like to make the trip but I misplaced the column. Can you help me out?
A: Put on your walking shoes and get ready to shop, because there is such a store and it covers more than a city block. It's the Unclaimed Baggage Center at 509 W. Willow St. in Scottsboro, Ala.
There, nestled in the Appalachian foothills and bordered by beautiful Lake Guntersville, shoppers can "treasure hunt" through the retail store that includes a concierge desk, a children's play area and the Cups Espresso Café.
The center gets nearly 7,000 new items every day (more than a million a year) from the airlines, which spend at least 90 days trying to reunite the luggage with the owners. After that the center buys it by the truckload and trundles it off to Scottsboro where workers sort through the bags. Some of the contents wind up in the showroom, some are given to charity and some are discarded.
According to the owner, Bryan Owens, about 60 percent of the merchandise is clothing and the rest cameras, electronics, sporting goods, jewelry, books and, of course, luggage. It you really want to shop, there is a department for lost and unclaimed cargo.
The center's Web site lets you take a virtual tour of the store, peek in a bag to see what people buy and what they pay and unpack a suitcase containing some unusual surprises. It also answers frequently asked questions. Women's clothing and sports equipment are the hottest items.
While you're in northeast Alabama, you might decide to enjoy some of the area's other attractions. These include Buck's Pocket State Park; Russell Cave where prehistoric Indians once lived; Stevenson Depot, a Union stronghold during the Civil War; DeSoto State Park and DeSoto Falls with hiking trails; and, if you haven't had enough shopping, check out First Monday at Scottsboro's Downtown Square. Every first Monday of the month for the past 100 years, residents get together for "trade days," a blend of yard sales, antique shows and arts and crafts where bartering, buying and swapping are the order of the day.
Information to pique your curiosity on this interesting Web site can be found at www.unclaimedbaggage.com or by calling (256) 259-1525.
Send your questions at least sixweeks prior to travel to MadelynMerwin in care of
Travel,Daily Herald, P.O.Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or e-mail