He's lived a life as unique and exotic as some of the pieces of furniture he sells at his Columbia Street store.
Urban Gypsy owner Jason McGill has travelled to more than two dozen countries, lived through a political uprising and bought a business after just one visit.
There's no question McGill likes adventure, and his store has allowed the family man - he has a one-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter - to go on buying trips but to still have a home base from which to share his wordly tales.
In the 1990s, McGill started his career in the fashion business, in marketing, which took him to all of the usual stops in Europe. Eventually, he took an unusual route, finding a job teaching at a fashion design school in Asia.
"I was thinking London or Milan," McGill says. "And they said, 'Jakarta, Indonesia,' and I said, 'Sounds good, let me get my map.'"
McGill got off the plan, and fell in love.
"As much as Jakarta, was an absolute, I mean, it's a dump. It's the dirtiest, craziest, most polluted and one of the biggest cities on the planet. But I was young, doing business, and I had a five-bedroom penthouse, and I worked in the fashion industry - I was living the life," he says.
But the good times wouldn't last. In 1998, the Asian currency crisis hit, McGill says, summing up the economic atmosphere.
"And things happened, like there was basically a small revolution in Indonesia. They pretty much overthrew the government, when they kicked out Suharto," he says. "I got caught up in all of that and lost everything. I lost my business."
McGill spent three days trying to get to the airport in the middle of what was basically a war zone.
"I spent three days curled up in the fetal position in my penthouse waiting for my building to burn down," he says. "There were thousands of people killed, and it was like the whole city was on fire. I was in a bad area. It's a long and complicated story."
After he fled Jakarta, McGill began doing marketing for international education, but it wasn't thrilling enough because he spent all of his time stuck inside hotel rooms. He got burned out and quit.
McGill returned to Canada and eventually walked into a store that sold Asian furniture and decor pieces.
He started telling the owner what he knew about the pieces in the store.
"It was driving me crazy, and about a week later, I walked back in and said, 'I'll buy the store.'"
It was that simple.
Interestingly, while McGill didn't live in New West or grow up here, there was a connection - beyond the fact that he was born in Royal Columbia Hospital in 1970. McGill's parents met in New West, just a couple of blocks up the hill from the store he bought.
"My dad, the first job he got when he came to Canada (from Scotland in the 1960s) was bouncing in a night club called the Grooveyard. It was about two blocks away in New Westminster, and that's where he met my mother in 1967," McGill says, referring to a previous incarnation of what is now called Metro Hall. "That was the coolest nightclub anywhere. Ike and Tina Turner and Little Stevie Wonder as the opening act. Marvin Gaye, I think played there."
McGill says New West's downtown has changed dramatically since he took over Urban Gypsy.
"Five years ago when I opened my store, I'd be kicking some guy out of my doorway in the morning and now, I look down the street and see young couples pushing baby buggies," he says.
The downtown redevelopment has been "massive," McGill says.
"My thing has always been let's do it as smart as we can, let's do it as cheap as we can, the best that we can, but most importantly, let's just do it," he says. "Let's just get stuff done."
The influx of condo developments downtown has been good for McGill's business, which specializes in South East Asian furniture and art, with most of the pieces coming from India.
McGill used to import quite a bit from Indonesia, but he doesn't like buying new teak because it's not sustainable, he says.
"For 200 years, that's all the colonials wanted was teak and mahogany, so they wiped out teak forests all over, and it takes too bloody long to grow," he says.
McGill does have teak in his store, but it's either original antique teak or recycled wood.
On a trip to India, he saw sheesham wood, a native tree of the sub-Himalayan regions of Pakistan and India.
"It's heavier than oak and teak, yet it grows like a weed, so it's totally sustainable," he says.
It's the wood McGill uses for some of the new handmade, solid hardwood furniture pieces he sells, like dinning room tables.
The India experience was transformative for McGill.
"When you go to India, I don't care who you are, your head completely explodes just because it's unbelievable," he says. "It's so vast, it's so varied, I don't care whether you are talking architecture to history to furniture to clothing - there's nothing you can't do see or get in India."
McGill also carries statues of Hindu gods and Buddha figures, which may seem somewhat specialized, but McGill says his clients are as varied as his products.
Urban Gypsy carries unique story-filled pieces, like a bookshelf made out of old camel carts and a dining table made out of an 150-year old door.
McGill also supplies the film industry. McGill got a call recently with what may have seemed like strange request for some. The set designer wanted a snake-charming basket. McGill happened to have one from Cambodia.
"When these guys need some crazy stuff, they'll call me because there's not too many guys around," McGill says, laughing.
As for his own home, McGill says the house he shares with his wife and kids looks more like a "horrible preschool" than exotic temple.
"I don't have any of my beautiful pieces. I've got multi-coloured foam mats on the floor and baby gates and toys from one end to the other," he says, "but I keep a couple of pieces that I can't part with."
With two little tots running around and a store chock-full of striking furnishings and art, it seems McGill has the best of both worlds.