Doyle Owens, who founded the Unclaimed Baggage Center, died on Saturday evening, Dec. 3, at the age of 85.
In 1970, Mr. Owens had the idea to get a $300 loan, borrow a pick-up truck, drive to Washington D.C., and buy a load of unclaimed luggage. He sold the contents from his purchase on card tables at a rent house in his hometown of Scottsboro, Alabama, and quickly realized his idea was a good one. Within a month, he left his job in insurance and became a "bag man" full-time.
Over the next 46 years, Unclaimed Baggage Center became a staple locally in Scottsboro and a regionally and nationally-known tourist destination.
Dubbed "The Lost Luggage Capital of the World," UBC is now the nation's largest purchaser of unclaimed baggage and cargo. A one-of-a-kind retail store, UBC provides a unique shopping experience full of an ever-changing array of items from useful to unusual from around the world all at an incredible value.
In 1978, UBC moved to its current location on Willow Street in Scottsboro, where it has 40,000 square feet of space and receives over one million visitors a year.
It became a true family business when both of Mr. Owen's sons joined the company. In 1995, his son Bryan and wife Sharon purchased the company. While no longer the head of the company, Mr. Owens continued to play a role as founder and ambassador for the company and was seen almost every day in the UBC café engaging with customers. His wife, co-founder of the company and supporter-in-chief Mollie Sue Wilborn Owens, passed away last year on July 4, 2015.
Bryan Owens made the following statement on his father: "I am humbled and yes awestruck that God gave Doyle Owens to be MY dad. Of all men, I am most blessed. I would not be the man I am today without the influence of my dad. My heart grieves but I am overwhelmingly grateful for the life we had together."
Over the years UBC has received attention from the national media including "Oprah," "The Late Show with David Letterman," NBC "Today," The Travel Channel, CNN, The Huffington Post and The New York Times, amongst many others.
In 2008, The Alabama State Tourism, along with Alabama's governor, honored UBC with the Director's Award, the highest tourism award in the state. It also received an official Commendation in recognition of UBC's dedication to employees, customers, community and the state. Mr. Owens also received Jackson County Citizen of the Year from the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and the Scottsboro Sentinel in 2013. The store received the Alabama Retailer of the Year in 2016.
The family will receive visitors on Friday evening, Dec. 9, from 6-8 p.m. at the Scottsboro Funeral Home at 1502 County Park Road in Scottsboro. Doyle's home-going celebration will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 11 a.m. at Calvary Baptist Church at 305 County Park Road in Scottsboro, followed by the burial at Cedar Hill Cemetery near the corner of W. Willow Street and Lost Luggage Lane.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Samaritan's Purse, http://www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/memorial-giving. Written condolences for the family can be sent to: The Owens Family, care of Unclaimed Baggage Center, 509 W. Willow Street, Scottsboro, Alabama 35768.