For more than 85 years, Trailways has helped launch many successful bus businesses. But did you know
Trailways helped start Unclaimed Baggage, the nation’s only discount retailer of lost luggage items?
Unclaimed Baggage is a thrift store shopper’s dream come true. It attracts over one million tourists
annually who shop the 50,000-square-foot-store for the weird and wonderful contents of lost luggage.
The business got its start with a truckload of luggage left behind at a Trailways depot in Washington,
D.C. more than 50 years ago.
“It’s amazing to see how even here, in Scottsboro, Alabama, Unclaimed Baggage could grow into an international tourist destination,” said Bryan Owens, owner of Unclaimed Baggage and son of the retailer’s founder, Hugo Doyle Owens. “It all started with my father’s big idea, a borrowed pickup truck and a $300 loan to go to Washington, D.C., and buy his first load of unclaimed bags from Trailways Bus Line.”
Now, Unclaimed Baggage is marking its 50th anniversary with the launch of an online store and a 50-state road tour and a traveling pop-up shop. Shoppers can get their picture taken with Hugo, the store’s 1965 Chevy truck that picked up the first load of unclaimed bags at Trailways in 1970. The tour runs through August.
Celebrating 50 years
“Great ideas can come from anywhere in travel because we’re so focused on customers, and Unclaimed Baggage is proof of that,” said Sabina Dhami, Trailways director of accounting and office management. “We couldn’t be more pleased to help Unclaimed Baggage celebrate 50 years of making people happy.”
Sonni Hood, head of public relations and community involvement for Unclaimed Baggage, stopped by the Trailways office for a visit as part of the tour.
The success of the company shows the foresight of founder Hugo Doyle Owens, who died in 2016. The company made a tribute video for its 50th anniversary that features the founder recounting its beginnings and growth over the decades.
The company still gets items from bus lines and depots, but the majority of bags come from airlines. Over 99.5% of domestic airlines’ checked bags are picked up at the carousel. For those that are not, the airlines conduct an extensive three-month tracing process and travelers are compensated. Unclaimed Baggage then purchases the orphaned items from the airlines.
“With just an ingenious idea and $300, Mr. Owens made orphaned bags with anonymous possessions into a unique, sustainable business and helped millions of people stretch a dollar over the last 50 years,” Hood said. “We are taking our tour city to city to celebrate with our customers and hear their stories. It’s been great to stop at Trailways, where everything started in 1970.”