Unclaimed Baggage
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90.3 WBHM | Scottsboro, Ala. -- 33 years ago, Doyle Owens got to thinking. What happens to all of that luggage the airlines lose? And more importantly, what could he do with it? Armed with 300 bucks, he bought a carload of unclaimed baggage and set up shop in Scottsboro, Alabama. Today - it's a thriving business that attracts nearly a million visitors a year.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center

Cantrell "My name is Brenda Cantrell. I'm the marketing and media relations manager. It's like Christmas every day! When you come in you just never know what you're going to find. We stock over 7,000 items every single day."

"There's just about anything you might take on an airline trip. Clothes, books, CD players. There are also bins of tweezers, nail clippers, shampoo and cologne. But that's just the beginning."

Cantrell "A 19th century replica full suit of armor came in a few years ago. One of the more fascinating pieces was in our jewelry boutique. It was a 5.8 carat diamond solitaire ring. With that particular item it was wrapped up in an old cloth tucked in the corner of a suitcase. You know, who knows if the person even knew it was there."

Clothes from the Unclaimed Baggage Center

Jean Davis "My name is Jean Davis and I'm from Soo St. Marie, Ontario - originally from England."

Jean and her husband Brian are doing a little Christmas shopping.

Jean Davis "Amazing! Because we never realized there was so much stuff that would be lost. There's everything! We bought some gold chains. One's for a present and one's for myself.

Brian Davis "The amount of the stuff and the condition the stuff's in!"

Jean Davis "The clothing doesn't smell like you'd expect to find in second hand stores. We noticed there was no smell with it. No odor."

Cantrell "We do sell used undergarments, but we do launder them just as we do everything else in our store."

Yep, there's big business in selling used underwear and everything else the store peddles. And with travel picking up again after a 2-year slowdown, company President Brian Owens, the son of the founder, says there's plenty of merchandise.

Owens "The airlines do a tremendous job in the tracing process. They're losing fewer bags, but yet still there's enough stuff."

Electronics from the Unclaimed Baggage Center

Cantrell "Right now we have an incoming cart rolling in and this is always a fun experience. Our shoppers just really have a hay day with this."

Reporter Ott "This cart literally just stopped and people are surrounding it."

Cantrell "Yeah, it's like bin diving - is what we like to call it. They just get their hands in to dig out and get out whatever they can. They have no idea what's in the bottom of that bin, if they need it or not. They just want to get their hands on it and see if it's something that they want."

Springsteen "My name is Bob Springsteen and I'm from Scottsboro, Alabama."

Reporter Ott "Okay - so I'm a novice. Let me in on the secret. What's the key to getting the best stuff here?"

Springsteen "Be early and come often and stay late. It's real simple."

Great advice for locals ... others might want to plan a longer trip. Just keep an eye on your suitcase if you do!

~Tanya Ott, December 23, 2003