Since the beginning, founders Doyle and Sue Owens established a strong culture of hard work, generousity, and mining for value. We seek to honor their legacy by being faithful stewards of the business and honoring God in all that we do.
50 Years of Reclaiming Lost Luggage
A Business Venture Begins
Born and raised in northeast Alabama, third-generation entrepreneur Doyle Owens was struck with an idea. Using a borrowed pickup truck and a $300 loan, he headed up to Washington D.C. and bought his first load of unclaimed baggage from Trailways Bus Line. He then sold the contents on card tables in an old rented house - the venture was an instant success! With his family’s blessing, he left his full-time insurance job, and Unclaimed Baggage Center was born.
Partnering with Airlines
Initially the business opened on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Doyle, his wife Sue, and their two sons worked tirelessly to prepare the luggage contents for sale. Doyle’s entrepreneurial spirit took flight as he landed his first airline contract with Eastern Airlines. As larger volumes and more unusual items started flowing in, the business expanded its hours of operation to six days a week. Gradually, Unclaimed Baggage formed relationships with all other domestic airlines, solidifying its position as the country’s only lost luggage store.
The Ski Sale Launch
With a sizeable inventory of winter ski equipment on hand, the store launched its first "Ski Sale," drawing customers from all over the South. The sale was so successful that it became an annual event attended by winter sports enthusiasts from across the country. Unclaimed Baggage now saves all ski equipment and apparel received throughout the year to sell on this day. Come by the store on the first Saturday of November, and you'll find customers camping out in the parking lot hoping to be the first ones through the door.
A New Generation of Ownership
Doyle's son Bryan and his wife Sharon purchased the business and began a remodel project that expanded Unclaimed Baggage to cover more than a city block. The business added a cafe and a Museum of Found Treasures, making it a true shopping and tourist destination.
Making Worldwide News
From the earliest years of business, regional publications expressed a fascination with the “land of lost luggage.” Then, in 1995, Oprah featured Unclaimed Baggage Center as one of America's “best-kept shopping secrets.” More media and curious visitors quickly followed from every corner of the globe to see the one-of-a-kind-store. The store has been featured in publications ranging from Vogue to HuffPost, Buzzfeed, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and showcased on TODAY, the Travel Channel and many more.
Over the last 25 years, Unclaimed Baggage has added lost items from more travel and entertainment businesses, along with unclaimed cargo, which has been lost or damaged during shipment. The store now receives thousands of unclaimed items each week, all of which are sorted, cleaned, cleared, prepped, priced, and stocked via the center’s complex processing system.
As part of its commitment to service and generosity, the company created the Reclaimed for Good foundation that has given millions of dollar’s worth of product and profit to meet needs all around the globe. It has also received numerous commendations and awards, including Alabama Retailer of the Year in 2016. Today, Unclaimed Baggage hosts more than one million store visitors each year from every state and more than 40 countries, making it one of Alabama’s top tourist attractions.
It’s Unclaimed Baggage Center’s 50th anniversary! We are humbled, grateful and give God glory for this milestone. The business has now reached the third Owens generation, as Bryan and Sharon’s sons, Ben, Matt, and Micah, are overseeing the year-long anniversary celebration. We’re hitting the road with a 50-state tour and launching an online store. Follow the exciting events!