“I kept calling until he finally listened to me,” Ms. Saltzberg said. “I was like, ‘I’m what you want: I’m young, I’m energetic, I’m an artist. Artists are O.K. with living in these parts of the city that are not fully developed yet, and I have tons of friends who would want to move into the vacant apartments.’”
It was a Thursday. The landlord gave Ms. Saltzberg the weekend to make good. By Monday, she had applications on all the available units.
Something clicked. “I found that it was all a lot like being an actor,” she said. “It was persistence and using improvisation to solve problems.”
Since then, she has seen the neighborhood evolve. “When I first started doing this, I walked through drug deals with clients all the time,” she recalled. “We’d get to the apartment, and I’d have to think fast, so I’d say things like, ‘Well, at least you know you don’t have to go very far.’”
Within months, she said, the formerly skeptical landlord opened his expansive portfolio of buildings in Upper Manhattan to her.
All the while, “Spelling Bee” was moving on a fast track to Broadway. “Once we opened, I was thinking, ‘I don’t need to do real estate anymore because I’m making a living wage with the show,’” said Ms. Saltzberg, who worked at several other agencies before starting Bohemia. “But I realized I loved it. I loved that what you put into it was what you got out of it. I loved the art of the deal, and I loved the neighborhoods I was working in. It was very exciting to be part of them.”
Between performances on matinee days, she showed properties, frequently to other actors, frequently in the company of “Spelling Bee” castmate Jose Llana, a future star of the David Byrne operetta “Here Lies Love,” who had gotten his real estate license, too.