Have you ever had one of those days where you suddenly realise your apartment is full of horrible-looking crap no one wants? No? Well, then you must have had one of those days when you suddenly realise your apartment has no furniture except for the squeaky office chair that came with your desk and the lawn furniture you stole from the neighbour’s backyard.
In either case, The Good Shepherd (Góði Hirðirinn in his native Icelandic), the Icelandic Red Cross’ donated household appliance outlet, will sort you out. Although the man himself is rarely seen, the store that shares his name will gladly take any worn and/or out-of-style chair, chattel, chest or commode (or anything else, for that matter) off your hands, and provide an insanely cheap used alternative to other furnishings you might find in other more fashionable household appliance outlets.
Also, you won’t have to waste hours in various specialty stores searching for lamps, stereos, tupperware, kitchen appliances, ovens, TVs , candlesticks, children’s toys and the like. You can find damn near anything, if not everything at the Shepherd. Donations made to the Red Cross that end up there also include, books, LPs, CDs, old magazines, silverware, coffeemakers, electronic organs, comic books, amplifiers and speaker systems, all at prices that rarely, if ever, exceed 15,000 ISK. Some items are almost ludicrously priced, with TVs at 3,000 and huge sofas at around 10,000. The Shepherd also regularly has sales to stave off the vast amount of donations they receive, which can go up to two full shipping crates a day.
The Good Shepherd was started in 1993 as a joint venture between the Icelandic Church Aid, The Mothers’ Support Committee, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross of Iceland. Their objective was to “prolong the life of household goods, promoting reuse and reducing what goes to the landfill site,” and then donating the proceeds to charity. The Good Shepherd has, over the years, donated to the Deaf/Blind Society, the Cerebral Palsy Association, the Tourette’s Society, as well as the abovementioned Church Aid, Mothers’ Support, Salvation army and Red Cross to name but a few, with the donations starting with a modest but impressive 600,000 ISK in 1999, and hitting an all-time high of 5 million ISK combined in 2005.
Although founded in 1993, the Good Shepherd had neither name nor storefront status until 1995, when the Red Cross opened its charity market. Until then it had operated a distribution service, delivering the various donated appliances to those in need. The outlet took the name ‘The Good Shepherd’ in 1999, and has since then grown in popularity and status, as evidenced by the steadily increasing proceeds, becoming known for it’s cheapness and variety not only among the needy, but also bargain shoppers and young families.
Youths renting their first apartment may find themselves somewhat constricted when it comes to taste, but this hardly matters when buying things like cups, knives, forks and the like, and besides, vintage is the in thing these days anyway. With once-hideous faded orange couches and fifties-style wooden commodes appearing regularly in downtown apartments alongside lava lamps and glass-blown baubles and record collections with obscurities from both sides of the atlantic, all of which can be found at The Good Shepherd.
But I emphasize the word can; to walk out of the Shepherd with a good purchase on your hands (or in your trunk), you have to walk in with an open mind. It is doubtful you will ever find exactly what you are looking for in terms of taste or dimension, and arranging your new furniture to best fit in with the older stuff may require some improvisation and experimentation. Also, impulsiveness is something of a prerequisite. If you spend too long mulling over whether or not to buy anything there, chances are anywhere from very good to excellent that it won’t be there tomorrow, and even if you reserve something, your claim only stays for three hours before coming up for grabs again.
Of course, the upshot to all this is that you can go to The Good Shepherd any number of times and never quite walk into the same store twice. Never assume that just because you haven’t seen something there before that it won’t be waiting for you to come along and whisk it away next time you come. In fact, if you ever have a couple of bills burning a hole in your pocket, The Good Shepherd is probably your best bet.
The Good Shepherd, Fellsmúli 28, 104 Reykjavík
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