Unclaimed Baggage 50th Anniversary
Unclaimed Baggage marks its 50th anniversary with a 50-state road tour—and a truckload of prizes and memories
Launched in 1970 with little more than a borrowed pick-up truck and a $300 loan, Unclaimed Baggage, the nation’s only retailer of lost luggage items, will hit the road for its 50th Anniversary. Unclaimed Baggage will bring games and prizes along on a nationwide 50 Years 50 States Road Tour celebrating what has grown to become one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions. It will also mark another big milestone in 2020 with the debut of a new e-commerce platform along with a new website, which goes live in March.
The year-long celebration kicks off March 20 with a party at Unclaimed Baggage—a 50,000-square-foot store that stretches more than a city block—where Unclaimed Baggage will unveil its road-tour vehicle: a restored 1965 Chevrolet pickup truck, complete with a mobile museum showcasing some of the fascinating finds of this one-of-a-kind retailer. The truck has been modeled after Doyle Owens’ original, which he borrowed to drive to Washington, D.C. and purchase his first load of Unclaimed Baggage from Trailways bus lines. Within a month, Owens knew he had a winning idea, spurring him to quit his job in insurance sales and become the “bag man.” Over the next few years, Owens, his wife, Sue, and their two boys, Bryan and Mark, expanded their business with airline merchandise. Bryan Owens purchased Unclaimed Baggage in 1995, extended its product sources, and remodeled and enlarged the retail store.
“It’s amazing to see how even here—in Scottsboro, Alabama—Unclaimed Baggage could grow into an international destination that has drawn national media attention,” said Unclaimed Baggage CEO Bryan Owens. “Any day you visit our store, you’re likely to see license plates from more than a dozen states. Those shoppers tell us they love driving to Unclaimed Baggage—even if it’s several hours each way—because they never know what they’ll find.”
Today, Unclaimed Baggage attracts one million shoppers annually from all 50 states and 40+ countries who browse through a treasure trove of goods that airlines have been unable to reunite with their former owners. If a suitcase gets lost in transit and can’t be returned to its owner—often because of a missing identification tag, the airline compensates the traveler. Airlines conduct a comprehensive 90-day baggage tracing process, after which only 0.0003% of the billion or so passenger bags checked every year are deemed truly lost. Unclaimed Baggage buys the unclaimed luggage and gives them a second life.
50 years, 50 states
Heading out from its Northern Alabama retail location, Unclaimed Baggage’s 50 Years 50 States Tour will stop for up to a week in several southern shopper-rich cities, such as Atlanta, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Nashville, Birmingham, Knoxville, and Memphis. It will host casual meet-ups with fans and reward shoppers with a series of giveaways. Many stops will coincide with major festivals, from the Atlanta Dogwood Festival (April 17-19) to the World Champtionship BBQ cookoff in Memphis (May 15-17) where attendees can participate in fun games and experiences, including Finders Keepers, the Baggage Experience and a mobile museum. Unclaimed Baggage will ultimately make its way around the country as it connects with customers in all 50 states. Dedicated fans can track the road trip’s progress by following #50years50states and can catch the truck at some of the nation’s most unusual roadside attractions.
Unclaimed Baggage will hold a series of charitable events along the way through its philanthropic program, Reclaimed for Good. The initiative has provided groups such as Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse World Medical Missions with millions of dollars’ worth of unsellable clothes, medical supplies and equipment. R4G’s Love Luggage initiative has also supported thousands of foster children by providing personalized suitcases to replace the garbage bags many typically use to transport their belongings. R4G will partner with local communities along the tour to spread Love Luggage’s reach to foster children across the nation. The non-profit also plans to set the record for the World’s Largest Coat Drive.
Diehard Unclaimed Baggage shopper tells tale, wins spree
Unclaimed Baggage set the stage for its 50th Anniversary celebration with a contest that enticed fans nationwide to share their favorite experiences for a chance to win the ultimate shopping spree, complete with roundtrip transportation, lodging and meals. From over 1,400 total entries received from every state, Marylee Jackson of South Carolina earned the grand prize for recounting her first trip to Unclaimed Baggage in 2015—a shopping adventure with her best friend that has since become an annual tradition.
Jackson says when an Unclaimed Baggage team member learned they had traveled from South Carolina for two days of shopping, the staffer made them feel like celebrities, buying them coffees at the café and giving them gift bags with coupons and T-shirts. “My gal-pal and I LOVE coming to Unclaimed Baggage because of the fabulous hunt, the amazing finds and the excellent customer service,” Jackson said. “We start planning and anticipating our next annual shopping trip the minute we drive away and head for home."
Unclaimed Baggage will continue the contest with customers, team members and fans throughout 2020.
About Unclaimed Baggage
Located in Scottsboro, Alabama, Unclaimed Baggage is a one-of-a-kind retail store that draws one million shoppers annually from all 50 states and around the world. As the country’s only merchant of unclaimed and lost airline baggage and its contents, Unclaimed Baggage offers a treasure trove of goods that airlines have been unable to reunite with their former owners. Besides clothing, footwear, formal wear and electronics, shoppers might find anything from a suit of armor and a 40-carat emerald to a Chinese dragon kite and a puppet created at Henson’s Creative Workshop. The store has made national news for its ever-changing array of unique items from around the world, all sold at an incredible value. Unclaimed Baggage also runs a philanthropic program called Reclaimed for Good. The initiative provides charities with millions of dollars’ worth of unsellable clothes, medical supplies and equipment, such as wheelchairs. Reclaimed for Good’s Love Luggage initiative has also supported thousands of foster children by providing personalized suitcases to replace the garbage bags many typically use to transport their belongings.