The best bargain-hunting destinations within driving distance of Chattanooga

Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Hugo, an orange truck named after the founder of Unclaimed Baggage, is loaded with luggage and parked in front of the Scottsboro, Alabama, store.
Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Hugo, an orange truck named after the founder of Unclaimed Baggage, is loaded with luggage and parked in front of the Scottsboro, Alabama, store.

Lucky for Chattanoogans who love a bargain, two unique shopping destinations offering deep discounts off of retail prices are a quick day trip from the city.

To Score Deals on Lost Luggage: Unclaimed Baggage in Scottsboro, Alabama

If you've ever wondered what happens to luggage that goes missing, Unclaimed Baggage has 50,000 square feet of answers. Through partnerships with every domestic airline and other sources, the store purchases more than a million pieces of luggage every year and sells the items inside for a fraction of the retail price.

"Anywhere someone might lose something, we partner with them," Public Relations and Communications Manager Sonni Hood says, as to where the store gets its inventory.

  photo  Staff photo by Emily Crisman / Fine jewelry on display at the Unclaimed Baggage store

Shoppers will have plenty to sort through across the center's three levels, all organized like a department store. And those who tire of shopping can check out the museum showcasing some of the most interesting items found in lost luggage over the store's 50 years in business, from full suits of armor to ancient Egyptian artifacts to Hoggle, a puppet from the movie "Labyrinth."

"Some people will spend the entire day," says Hood, who recommends shoppers plan to spend at least two hours in the store.

On the main level are clothing, shoes and accessories and the store's café. The Bargain Basement offers household items and souvenirs, and the most popular area of the store — the mezzanine — has more expensive items, such as electronics, pricier sunglasses, sporting equipment, ski gear and swimsuits.

Hood says the store has seen an increase in inventory since the pandemic ended and people started traveling again.

"We have more product than we've ever had before," she says.

  photo  Staff photo by Emily Crisman / A selection of suits and sport coats at Unclaimed Baggage

In 2020, Unclaimed Baggage launched an online store, and now, half of the merchandise is sold exclusively online and half is sold in the Scottsboro store, with more of the higher-end items going online, Hood says. All fine jewelry can be found both online and in-store. Pro tip: New items drop online every Thursday and Sunday.

While prices are better than retail, you won't experience the thrill of finding a designer item at a thrift-store price. No, everything here is priced by a professional who knows exactly what that item is worth. And there's a good chance you won't think the item's worth as much as the experts do, particularly if you're expecting Alabama thrift-store prices.

The store's a great place to find a nice men's suit or sport coat, as the place is full of them, and you're bound to find one in whatever size you want. If you need a specific type of sports equipment (it's shocking how many hockey sticks are lost on airplanes) or skiing attire, you could probably find a deal here.

Unclaimed Baggage's biggest event is their ever-popular ski sale, held annually since 1981. "It's just a frenzy in here," Hood says of the sale, for which shoppers camp outside the night before to be among the first in the door, then make a dash to the racks and grab as many ski clothes as possible to take to a corner and sort through.

For Eye-Popping Deals on Everything: Sundry Stores in Etowah, Tennessee

From copy machines and toilet paper to Shop-Vacs and sledgehammers, the Sundry Store offers deals on anything and everything the store's owners can find and sell for a bargain, says co-owner Dallas Ferguson, whose grandmother opened the original store in downtown Etowah. The family later opened a second, larger location of about 32,000 square feet on the north side of Etowah in 2005.

Food is the only thing the Sundry Store doesn't offer, aside from candy at the register, Ferguson says. Everything else is fair game — including a wide selection of clothes, shoes, hardware and tires — all of which are new and sold for about 30-90% off retail prices.

  photo  Contributed photo / A selection of small appliances at The Sundry Store

"We stock stuff all the time," Ferguson says. "We never know what's going to be next. That's kind of the beauty of it. We could be selling refrigerators one day and pickaxes and hammers the next day."

The store gets its merchandise in a variety of ways, including trade shows and companies selling off inventory when they go out of business. For example, the store acquired about 9,000 four-wheeler tires from a Louisiana company that shut down last year, as well as a bunch of appliances from a warehouse in Puerto Rico that was damaged in a storm, Ferguson says. The store's finds are shared to their around 9,000 Facebook followers, most of whom come from outside of Etowah to shop.

While deals are publicized online, shopping is in-person only, to keep prices low enough to be eye-popping.

"By the time you pay shipping and all that stuff, you're not getting as good of a deal," he says. "Especially since some of the stuff we're selling is big, you can't ship it for a reasonable rate."

  photo  Contributed photo / Shop-Vacs are among the items priced at a deep discount at The Sundry Store.

Upcoming Events