Summer 2000
Vol. 17 No. 2
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


FAQ: Samford

Heading to Graduate School with a Fistful of Scholarship Dollars

Viewpoints: Berry and Flynt

Unclaimed Bargains

Miss Alabama 2000

Campus News
Samford, WMU Name Vaughn Director of Christian Women's Leadership Center

Determined Nurse Bell Keeps Clinic Open, Studies Business Side with Stanley Scholarship

Leadership for a Changing World: Rice Suggests Formula for Success

Samford's Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing Received CCNE Accreditation for Bachelor's, Master's Programs

'Burst of New Energy upon the Sciences'

Major Gift to Athletics

Bulldogs Plan to Exercise Option Again in 2000

Men's Team Captures First TAAC Track Title

News Briefs
Bill Mathews Named VP as Laverne Farmer Retires

Interior Design Gets FIDER Accreditation

Translation Prompts Scholarship Fund

Other Stories
Bobby Bowden Day
Faculty Accolades
Class Notes
In Memoriam


Summer 2000

'Wild and Fascinating Business'
Owens Offers Bargains Galore at Unclaimed Baggage Center

Looking for a bargain on cameras, jewelry, clothing, luggage, sports equipment, books, art treasures-or practically anything else you could conceivably transport on an airliner?

Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala., may have what you're looking for, at 50 to 80 percent below retail. If they don't have it today, they may have it tomorrow. Their inventory changes drastically every day.

"We put out about 7,000 new items each day," said Unclaimed Baggage Center head Bryan Owens '81, a former Samford student body president. "Because the contents of every bag is different, it's like Christmas every day."

UBC is the nation's only center for selling unclaimed baggage, a business that has captured the imagination-and money-of shoppers worldwide. The store's merchandise comes from baggage that has gone unclaimed by airline passengers, lost articles left on planes or in airports, and unclaimed air cargo.

"There's not another company like it," said Owens, who is president and chief executive officer of Owens Company South, Inc., the parent company of UBC.
"It's a wild and fascinating business."

President Bryan Owens '81 welcomes shoppers from every state to the bargains at Scottsboro's Unclaimed Baggage Center.
UBC buys the unclaimed items after airlines have made every attempt to rejoin the bags with their owners. The company collects and refurbishes nearly a million articles a year.

The stock is displayed in a retail complex of about 50,000 square feet that takes up an entire city block in downtown Scottsboro.

Once on display, the items are fair game for bargain hunters who come from every state and 40 foreign nations, says Owens, making it the second largest tourist draw in Alabama.

"Last year, UBC brought more than 800,000 people into Scottsboro to shop," he said. In the center's guest services department, the concierge desk fields calls from around the world, including a recent caller from London, England, who had read about UBC in The Times of London newspaper.

As the media discovers this unique business, increased public fascination just seems to follow.

"A market research firm in Dallas suggests that they have not seen such a cult-like following since the start of Starbucks Coffee," said Owens.

Doyle and Sue Owens, Bryan's parents, started the business as a part-time venture in 1970. They bought originally from bus companies. But it soon became a full-time operation, and the Owens incorporated the business in 1978.

On a typical day, Scottsboro shoppers who remember when the business opened may drop by several times to view the ever-rotating stock. Some Huntsville residents make the 45-minute drive twice a week.

"People across the country will schedule a stop here as part of a business or family trip," said Owens. "Many of our guests come again and again."

Most of the inventory consists of the normal items people transport in luggage, or articles such as computer equipment, sporting goods and fine jewelry. But Owens and his staff occasionally come across the unusual.

One was a full case of Egyptian artifacts that included an ancient mummified falcon, burial mask and scarba from a pharaoh's tomb. They also discovered a rare violin that dated to 1770 and an original painting valued at $20,000 which was purchased for $60 at UBC.

Independent appraisers are called in to inspect many items, says Owens. Jewelry items valued at over $1,000, for example, are sent to an independent gemologist for appraisal.

This summer, one of the pricier items was a 40-carat emerald that had been appraised at $29,500. The UBC price tag is half price.

Potential customers or those just curious can check out a sampling of the inventory at Unclaimed Baggage Center Web site ( and online store, which offers a cross-section of what is on the floor. U.S. News & World Report has listed it as one of the hottest shopping sites on the Web, and Yahoo! ranks it as one of its most visited sites.

Owens and his wife, Sharon, a graduate of Wheaton College who has a master of business administration degree from the University of North Carolina, have three sons ages eight, seven and five.

He recently was selected to participate in a Harvard Business School owner/ president management program. Those enrolled study finance, strategic marketing, information technology and negotiations during intensive three-week sessions.

"It is a chance to make good contacts and will sharpen entrepreneurial skills," he said.

Those skills already were surfacing during Owens' college days. He served as SGA president during his junior year of 1979­80 and remembers it as a year of change.

"I'm a change agent, not a maintainer," he said. During his presidency, the SGA constitution was rewritten and the school sponsored its first series of secular concerts, including the Little River Band and singers BJ Thomas and Amy Grant.

"God wired me up as an entrepreneur," said Owens. "I'm in a fast lane business, and I've been blessed with a really fun company to be the shepherd of."

How To Keep Your Bag Out of Scottsboro

Bryan Owens of Unclaimed Baggage Center suggests it is not the baggage that is lost, but the owner. The baggage is actually in Scottsboro. To decrease chances of your luggage getting lost or mishandled and winding up at the UBC, Owens suggests this Top 10 list of tips:

10. Ensure that the bag is not broken and that the zipper works.
9. Verify that your destination tag is correct.
8. Insure expensive items for more than the industry standard of $2,500.
7. Avoid special handling instructions.
6. Arrive early for check-in.
5. Provide legible ID both inside and outside your luggage.
4. Lock your bag.
3. Ensure that your luggage handle is working properly.
2. Be able to identify your contents.
1. Tip the Skycap!