Melanie Bajrovic

PHOTO: Melanie Bajrovic. Instagram

Melanie Bajrovic established multiple sources of passive income that enabled her to leave the bar industry. Since her transition from the bar industry to becoming a millionaire real estate investor, she typically retires to bed by 10 p.m., which is a significant shift from her nearly two decades of working in various roles within bars, where her nights often extended until dawn.

Instead of bartending or managing a bar staff, Bajrovic now manages a real estate portfolio valued at over $3 million U.S. in and around her hometown of Niagara Falls, Canada. She generates passive income through rental properties and a construction business. She handles property matters directly, working closely with contractors to address issues as they arise. She even takes the initiative to personally attend to tenant needs, occasionally making a 50-minute drive to assist them.

Bajrovic, also known as “The Wealthy Barmaid” from her 2017 book, emphasizes that treating real estate investment as a hobby will yield hobby-like returns, while treating it as a business will result in substantial profits.

Her journey to Niagara Falls was influenced by her maternal grandparents, who emigrated from communist Yugoslavia to Canada in 1970. Settling first in Orillia, Ontario, with Bajrovic’s great-uncle, they eventually made their home in Niagara Falls, where they thrived as successful business and property owners, instilling in Melanie a strong work ethic and the importance of both business and real estate investments.

Bajrovic’s parents also contributed to her work ethic by opening their bar and restaurant, Harry’s New York Bar, near Niagara Falls, where she began working in the kitchen at the young age of 12. Her parents didn’t initially pay her, as it was customary for children to pitch in. She later became a server, bartender, and, while still a teenager, a manager at their second establishment, Moe’s. When she began earning Canada’s minimum wage for servers, her mother saved her wages on her behalf.

At the age of 22, with savings from tips and wages, she bought her first house, a single-family home near downtown Niagara Falls, acquired at a great price through an estate sale. She secured a conventional mortgage, although she later regretted not making a 20% down payment to avoid mortgage insurance.

Self-taught but guided by a real estate agent who was also an investor, Bajrovic used her income from part-time jobs to fund renovations on her first property and went on to purchase four more single-family homes as rental properties. She lived with her parents to reduce expenses and even worked multiple jobs while obtaining a bachelor’s degree and an MBA, which she self-funded.

For her last two houses, she needed co-signers due to her lower income, and her parents stepped in to help. At the age of 27, she ventured into commercial real estate by purchasing a building in St. Catharines, outside Niagara Falls, using her residential properties as collateral. She opened Monty’s Gastropub and later sold the bar in 2020, retaining ownership of the building. By then, she had secured her financial independence and no longer needed to work in the bar industry or a traditional 9-to-5 job.

As a landlord, Bajrovic faced challenges, including problematic tenants who incurred unpaid rent and damages, as well as significant maintenance issues. She has learned the importance of thorough tenant screening, although it doesn’t always guarantee success.

Bajrovic considers herself retired from the bar industry but continues her entrepreneurial pursuits, including running a construction business and producing a burlesque show called “The Champagne Showgirls.” She enjoys glamour and sparkles, evident in the racy attire of the “Showgirls” performers and the glittery decor in her home, which she owns and rents out a basement apartment from. She plans to make the most of her flexible schedule to indulge in more travel.

Although her career in bars funded her path to financial freedom, Bajrovic doesn’t miss the drawbacks associated with the industry, such as late nights, bar fights, and drama. She relishes the positive changes her life has undergone, particularly since leaving the bar industry behind.