A couple of my kids are great thrift-store shoppers, so I took them to the thrift-store mecca Unclaimed Baggage Center. This huge store in Scottsboro, Alabama, is where unclaimed bags and cargo from all over the country eventually end up.
“You never know what you’ll find,” is the logo of this store. It’s an understatement. We found (among too many things to list) David Yurman jewelry, a glittery ice-skating dress, hundreds of sunglasses, an Escada jacket, Tag Heuer watches, a Gucci dress, lots of Michael Kors handbags, a men’s Givenchy cashmere coat that was one of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I’ve ever seen, furs, Burberry trench coats, Beats headphones, iPads, iPhones, Kindle Fire tablets, MacBook air computers, wedding dresses, camping equipment and soccer jerseys. Ironically, or maybe not, there were lots of suitcases, too.
We bought: Two Kindle tablets, Ray-Ban sunglasses (aviators and Wayfarers) with cases, a soccer jersey from Burkina Faso, a men’s Levi’s denim jacket, a few sweaters, men’s dress socks, two 90s-era windbreakers and a pair of Adidas hightop sneakers that were so ugly they were beyond cool. We spent less than $250.
In business since 1970, Unclaimed Baggage is one of Alabama’s top tourist destinations. It’s been featured on NBC’s Today show, in The New York Times and in Smithsonian magazine. There’s a cafe in the store (serving Starbuck’s coffee) if you need a little space in the 40,000-square-foot store (which covers more than a city block).
According to the company’s website, they’ve opened luggage to find: a Versace gown straight from the runway, a full suit of armor (replica), a Las Vegas showgirl costume (not a replica), a 5.8 carat diamond packed in a sock, a 40.95-carat natural emerald, a platinum Rolex worth more than $60,000, a bearskin packed in salt, a camera from the Space Shuttle (which they gave back to NASA), a live rattlesnake, an ancient Egyptian burial mask, a Limoges vase (it sold for $80 and later was appraised at $18,000) a painting that sold for $60 that actually was worth $25,000 and a missile-guidance system for a fighter jet (which they returned to the Air Force).
In 2016, Unclaimed Baggage earned the Alabama Retailer of the Year Gold Award. The store is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.. It’s closed on Sunday.
Unclaimed Baggage is about two hours from Birmingham and is worth the drive. Especially if you make it a day and have lunch at 50 Taters.
This casual restaurant features all sorts of comfort food. You can’t go wrong with the fried catfish here, and the stuffed baked potatoes (we filled ours with pulled pork) are huge and delicious.
Tips for shopping at Unclaimed Baggage Center: Go in with a set amount of money and spend just that. You will be tempted to spend more. You can call ahead and reserve time with a personal shopper. In any case, do stop by the customer service area for a map of the place. And be sure to spend some time in the smaller store called Etc. This is where the biggest bargains live (including lots of stuff for kids). Also, this is where the famous hourly “Roll-Outs” happen.