What could be better than the delicious smells of Starbucks Coffee, freshly baked cookies and over-the-top sandwiches and salads?
Combine them with a shopping trip to Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, and you will have your answer.
Inside the world famous center, is Cups Café, where cookies the size of salad plates come out of the oven fresh each day, delicious chicken salad is piled high and Starbucks Coffee is king.
Brenda Cantrell, brand ambassador at the center, remembers a time when Cups was the only place in Alabama to find a Starbucks.
“Back in 1995 when Brian Owens bought the business from his parents,” she said, “the store was going through a remodel. We were the first Starbucks of any affiliation in Alabama at that time.
“It was under a specialty marketing agreement,” she continued. “The national draw that we have here and the presence that we have, let them know it would be positive thing for them. We remained the only one for several years. It still surprises people when they come in.”
If coffee is king at Cups, the reigning queen is their chicken salad.
It’s been voted ‘Best in Jackson County,’ for several years.
Elizabeth Baughman, manager of Cups, explained why.
“To me, chicken salad says ‘the South’” she said. “I’ve been to different restaurants here and everyone says, ‘try my chicken salad.’ But ours is made with Dijon mustard, and mayonnaise, which makes it a little bit tangy with that bite of sweet from the grapes and that bite of crunch from the walnuts – its phenomenal. All of that taste and texture just blends together beautifully and the customers love it.”
The most popular way to get chicken salad at Cups is served on a bed of lettuce with fresh tomato slices and dill pickle spears, or piled high on a fresh croissant with all of the trimmings.
Cups also serves the chicken salad as a sampler platter, combining it with choice of two other menu salads.
“Our strawberry-pecan salad is popular with that,” said Baughman, “and our grape salad is also delicious.”
As café manager, Baughman spends her day making sure the food is fresh and the staff is ready to provide the ultimate in service and friendliness.
“I love my job,” she said, “and I absolutely love this company. When our customers walk into Cups, we are ready to give them a terrific dining-in experience. We also provide take-out. Whatever they need to make sure their food is just right, we try to do that.”
Cups serves around 170 customers per day and the staff is always looking for new items to make the experience better each time.
“We are about to start serving breakfast items like muffins, croissants and homemade biscuits,” Baughman said. “We also just got in new flavors of iced coffee and new smoothies. They are delicious.”
Prices at Cups are surprisingly low, especially considering the amount and quality of the food.
The café itself is trendy and comfortable with spotless, shiny tables and even a big screen T.V.
“People come in, shop, relax and have a nice lunch,” said Cantrell. “They get a cup of coffee, recharge, and then start shopping again. It’s the perfect marriage of food and fun.
“One thing I think appeals to customers,” she continued, “is you can see your food being made right there in front of you. That gives customers a sense of quality and ease. The service here is phenomenal. The staff at Cups really does go above and beyond to make it a wonderful experience for our customers.”
“Along with some of the best food around, we have exceptional service,” she said. “That is one of the main points that keeps people coming back. We make it a point to get to know our regular customers and treat our new customers like old friends.
“We have sandwiches, salads, and light fare for people to come in and enjoy,” she said. “We also have Dippin’ Dots ice cream, which is very popular with the kids.”
Unclaimed Baggage Center is rated one of the top tourist attractions in the state.
“Just in the last couple of weeks we had customers from Alaska, Ireland, Australia and the UK,” said Cantrell. “But we also look forward to our regular customers from Scottsboro dropping in and having lunch. This is a great company and Cups offers a great café experience right here in town. And you can shop, too! What more could you ask for?”