In Paradise, you can buy someone’s used underwear for pennies on the dollar

by CountryFriedMama on January 2, 2010

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The movie Cars is not on our heavy rotation list, but we’ve seen it once or twice.  If memory serves, most of it takes place in a town that was once hoppin’ but which has been dying a slow death for many years.  On New Year’s Eve day, I dragged my poor family to a town very much like that.  I hope it is not indicative of what awaits us in 2010.

I blame it all on the crummy guidebook I bought when we moved here.  Shockingly, there are not a lot of choices when one wants to purchase a tourist guide for the deep, deep, DEEP South.  Most books offer lots of information about Atlanta, perhaps, and tons about Florida — which Country-Fried Daddy insists is not actually the real South — but you’re lucky to get 10 pages on, say, Alabama.

But I found one book that focuses on off-the-beaten-path destinations within a few hours’ drive of home.

That book is now in the recycle bin.

On Thursday, we went to the “Shoppers’ Paradise” in Boaz, Alabama, highly recommended by my guidebook, which was clearly written by sadists.

This is what welcomed us:

Also, there was this:

“Paradise” also featured a Family Dollar Store, a Discount Drug, the Bible Outlet, and many, many pawn shops, as well as several outlet malls, all of which appeared to be 90 percent empty.

Despite my disappointment at the reality of Paradise, I was still excited to hit one store recommended by the authors of that stinkin’ book.

We headed straight for this place:

See that overflowing trash can in the corner there?  That pretty much represents the philosophy of this establishment.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center — which has its flagship store farther north in Scottsboro, Alabama — buys up the lost luggage the airlines can’t, for some reason, return to passengers, then sells it.  It sounded like heaven to me, kind of like what a consignment sale would look like if people sold off all their favorite things against their will.

Yes, people often pack their best sweaters and shoes and purses when they go on a trip.  They also pack vitamins, underwear, tampons, and, apparently, pregnancy tests, too.  This place sold everything.  At least, it appeared that way.  I don’t really want to think about the stuff they turned down.

We walked by a mountain of car seats, past a display case full of digital cameras, through racks of clothes, many with the tags still attached.  I’m sure there were great deals to be had there, but the whole place just made me sad.  Think of the countless ruined vacations represented in that one building!  Someone packed that red, lacy thong for her big trip to the Caribbean, probably, and I’m sure she was not happy when she arrived there without it.  Who am I to buy that thing on discount and enjoy it?  It just wouldn’t be right.  Or sanitary.

We left, and CFD started telling me about his visits to Boaz as a kid.  It was quite a place once, it seems.  But the interstate doesn’t go straight through there, newer outlet malls have opened in more desirable areas near the beach, and it’s easy enough to find discounts online.  No one needs to travel to Paradise to find a good deal on jeans.

And so, I find myself slowly recovering from disappointment, facing the new year without an adequate guidebook, still eager to find some strange, quirky, less-sad destinations for daytrips in 2010.

Anyone want to help me out?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Bubbe January 2, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I blame myself for this sick need to find consignment shops, that you have apparently inherited. saw-wee….

Jane January 3, 2010 at 10:09 am

Who knew? At least the unclaimed baggage store proved to be entertaining!

Dee January 3, 2010 at 11:26 am

I remember a friend of mine years ago who used to rave about how fun it was to go to Boaz. I’m sorry it was such a disappointment. If I was going to take a day trip I would go to Warm Springs, Georgia, or Madison, Georgia. If you like to camp, try Amicalola Falls in North Georgia. Of course, I live in Atlanta so those are all close to me. I don’t know where you are, but the only place I want to visit in Alabama is Mobile. They have a Mardi Gras festival there they say is better than New Orleans, plus I have a rich cousin who lives there…

here’s hoping 2010 ROCKS!

Country-Fried Mama January 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Thanks for the tips, Dee. Adding ‘em to my list…

Megan January 3, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Your husband is right about Boaz, it used to be the “place” to shop for us small town folk. It was either that or drive to Huntsville for the mall. I grew up in the Guntersville/Arab area and that is where we went. It has gone downhill in the past couple of years. I think the side that still has a number of stores is the side where the Lee Outlet is, but i don’t know. When I go to the outlets, we only visit Rack Room shoes. I was sad to see that so many other stores had cleared out of the other side.

Megan January 3, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Another neat place in Northern Bama is the Ava Maria Grotto in Cullman. We used to go there when I was little. It may still be open to the public but not sure.

Megan January 3, 2010 at 6:14 pm

Here’s the website:

Country-Fried Mama January 3, 2010 at 8:48 pm

Thanks for the suggestion, Megan! The list is growing…

Becca January 4, 2010 at 9:57 am

I almost peed in my pants. Thanks for the laugh! Just think… it made a great blog post. Oh and you were all together!


faemom January 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Bummer. Nothing like a tourist trap. Like Tombstone, AZ. We were so dissappionted by its money gouging. But after ten years, the place is a siren’s song to my dad once again. Great.

Jamie January 5, 2010 at 8:27 am

LOVE the new site!!! I’m a sucker for Unclaimed Baggage. But yes – it is sad – to think of those people who lost their things and had to get new ones on the airlines dollar…oh wait. Ok, so sentimental loss – sad. New boots – not so sad.

Casey January 5, 2010 at 9:08 am

I’m a daytripper, too, and this is so something I would end up doing.

However, I’m one of those people who lost every belonging on a flight. Actually – before a flight. While traveling on our first-ever family vacation, the airline spilled jet fuel (huh????) on every suitcase we brought. I had purchased a ton of new clothes for family pictures on the beach, 5 theme parks, etc. It was a total nightmare.

But, your post made me happy thinking someone, somewhere might have benefitted from my perfectly broken in Birkenstocks.

All was not lost.

CountryFriedMama January 5, 2010 at 10:24 am

Casey, that might be the harshest vacation story I have ever heard. I hope they made it up to you, but somehow, I doubt it.

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