Published May 10, 2010
A fluorescent-lit warehouse with an ambiance to match, Góði Hirðirinn is an almost-free-for-all of junk. It’s not that the goods aren’t in decent condition, but there’s definitely a fine selection of crap to sort through. Like any scrap heap, gems reveal themselves to the patient magpie.
“This is my favourite thing,” Birna Einarsdóttir, a shopper at Góði Hirðirinn, told me. “I’m just fanatic about old stuff.” A young graphic designer in Reykjavík, Birna uses second-hand paper to create one-of-a-kind books. “I find it so beautiful,” she said, showing off the soft green record sleeve paper she had found.
Others here are looking to fulfil more practical needs. Maria Jónsdóttir, a preschool teacher, was on a coffee table hunt, and found a beautiful circular teak table for about 3.000 ISK.
Good buys, no expectations
Deals like this abound. Frikki Ragnarsson, the manager, told me that sellers at Kolaportið, the Reykjavík flea market, regularly hit up Góði Hirðirinn to purchase their wares, then mark up the price. So if you want to skip the middleman, the bargain of your dreams is probably waiting for you here.
Árni Ingi Rikharðsson, another Góði Hirðirinn shopper, told me he shopped there when he was younger and living on the cheap, because its goods are “very good and cost almost nothing.” Today he was there looking for a TV, but no such luck.
The store maintains good-quality merchandise because the employees throw out over half the things donated to cull the garbage out, Frikki said. Still, this leaves plenty of wiggle room for weird stuff to creep onto the shop floor. Homemade furniture and paintings are a regular sight, he said.
Whatever you’re looking for, going to Góði Hirðirinn is like meditating. It’s best to enter without expectations. You might not find everything on your list, but you never know what you’ll discover. Ingibjörg Bjarnadóttir had driven from out of town today to visit her family in the city, she said. She stopped by Góði Hirðirinn to find her blind grand nephew a cassette radio. Alas, the store didn’t yield what she was looking for this time around, but Ingibjörg was in good spirits. “You have to keep looking,” she said, as she found some pottery she liked.
Góði Hirðirinn, which translates to “the Good Shepherd”, is part of the recycling company SORPA, and gives all its profits to charity, though the store isn’t religion-affiliated as its name might suggest. “It was a very good idea, that name. People are very positive about what we are doing,” said Frikki. Góði Hirðirinn is a win-win shopping experience. You can find unique stuff for cheap and give to charity.
What Frikki likes best about the place, though, is working with the employees and customers. “I know that we’re doing a good job. That does make me happy anyway,” he said.
I was just beginning to get into the hunt as Frikki uttered the closing shout. I hadn’t found anything, so I figure I’ll just have to keep looking.
Góði Hirðirinn Numbers
‘70s fondue set – 1.200 ISK
Kitchen knives – 250 ISK each
Wooden desk with drawers – 3.000 ISK
Weird ‘70s rope ceiling lamp – 500 ISK
‘70s teak armchair with blue upholstery – SOLD
Brown leather armchair – 2.000 ISK
All teddy bears – 50 ISK
# VHS tapes of Friends – 125
# creepy Barbie and Little Mermaid busts – 6
Observed ratio of female to male customers – 3:2ish