Thursday, August 24, 2006

Luggage rebirth

What happens to airline bags that go unclaimed or are permanently separated from their owners? They end up in Scottsboro, Ala.

Like most Southern towns, Scottsboro is a ring of shops – café, antique stores, feed store – surrounding the courthouse. But a couple of blocks away sits a 40,000-square-foot department store filled with the remains of what was once someone’s checked luggage.

For more than 30 years, the Unclaimed Baggage Center has worked with major U.S. airlines, buying the ½ of 1 percent of bags each year that go unmatched with their owners, says spokesman Brenda Cantrell. Some are bags nobody bothered with; some are cargo shipments trapped in red tape. Others are bags that lost their ID tags (a reason, says Cantrell, to put multiple tags both inside and out.)

A visit is more treasure hunt than true shopping excursion. Had they fit, I would have come home with a pair of Ferragamo sandals with cork heels that looked completely unworn for $200 minus a 25 percent discount being offered on some items. Other options included rollaboard suitcases (from $8), long-sleeve T-shirts (from $5), collapsible strollers (from $2), an Ipod ($160), full-length mink coat ($1,000), paperback books (from $2), a Tiffany stainless tank watch ($700) and a kitchen sink – stainless, with two washing bins -- $45.

Not all have been "previously used.'' Those that came from cargo shipment sometimes still have their manufacturer's tags on them.

The ambiance is TJ Maxx-like: a big open space with sections for men’s clothing, women’s clothing, jewelry, etc. “Some people expect a warehouse, other people expect to find suitcases that they rummage through,’’ said Cantrell. “They’re surprised to find it’s so nice.’’

In case you’re heading this way, the Unclaimed Baggage Center is about an hour west of Chattanooga, an hour east of Huntsville – and about an hour southeast of the Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn. Open Monday-Saturday.


Photos courtesy of Unclaimed Baggage Center.


sara herald said...

Sounds like you are having a good time. Don't forget to try eating at Lovelaces in Nashville or Blues City Cafe in Memphis. You might recognize the tram over the river to the island and some other sites from the movie "The Firm". If you are driving straight to St. Louis you might want to go by way of Paducah Kentucky and the fossil area on the way. If you cross the river and go to West Memphis Arkansas and head north from there you might discover one of the worst stretches (pothole wise) of the interstate. It's hard to believe Arkansas had a Pres. and couldn't manage to get the road repaved. Avoid it if you can. Have fun.

Anonymous said...

Hope you enjoy the Opre' and maybe a coctail before at the Peabody...if you get there, be sure to time your arrival for the duck walk...stupid but what a great scam.

We want more photos of your trip included in your photos of the luggage center???

Debbie Kowalsky said...

If you go to the Peabody (which you could do in addition to Graceland, which I voted for), you can walk down to Beale Street for some music and dinner. We ate at Pat O'Brien's (yes, there is one in Memphis on Beale Street that looks like the original) while listening to Dueling Pianos.

Anonymous said...

From Kansas City, don't miss Lecompton KS.."the Birthplace of the Civil War" located between Lawrence & Topeka just off I-70. Visit the two museums; Territorial Capital Museum & Constitution Hall. Construction on Territorial Capital Museum building was begun as the first capital of Kansas in 1855. Constitution Hall was the site of the writing of the Lecompton Constitution which petitioned to bring Kansas into the Union as a Slave State. Also, see 1850's cabin --original headquarters of the Kansas Democratic Party. See website:

Daniel Amat said...

Did thse things in the unclaimed luggage center cost a lot or where the prises okay

Daniel Amat said...

Did thse things in the unclaimed luggage center cost a lot or where the prises okay

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