Bella Rustina

Story by Benita Drew

Photo provided by Bella Rustina

Bella Rustina

(479) 754-4100 | 1611 Oakland Street, Clarksville, AR

Conway Expo Center, January 8-10 | Antiquealleyarkansas.com | Bellarustina.com | zontaantiqueshow.com

Born when her maternity leave ended, Bella Rustina was an avenue for event promoter Ashley Norris to use her education doing something she loved while allowing her to stay home with her newborn Caleb.

Ashley started as an antique dealer, working her way through college with a double major in accounting and information technology by selling her estate and yard sale finds on eBay and in booths.

Upon graduation, Ashley took a full-time job. But having always wanted to own her own business, she started promoting Antique Alley Arkansas events. It was only two to three shows per year but with each show taking two to three months to put together, she had to make some sacrifices. “I worked during lunch breaks and weekends,” Ashley says, “and took calls at work, which I got in trouble for a couple of times.”

After Caleb, now six, was born, Ashley made the decision to take the plunge into full-time self-employment and left her career of five years, adding Bella Rustina to her events list. “Not only did I enjoy it, but I was good at it.” Bella Rustina is much like Antique Alley Arkansas, but instead focuses on vintage and handmade items. It’s grown to five shows per year with more than 100 booths per show, and is held in Conway and Little Rock or Maumelle. As a professional event promoter, Ashley brings dealers from around the United States together under one roof for weekend shows to sell their items, providing the advertising, staff and location to promote and host the events.

Along with Bella Rustina and Antique Alley Arkansas, Ashley is in her fifth year as executive director of Zonta Antique Show in Longview, Texas. The Zonta show is special, she says, because it is hosted by the Get Zonta Club, which raises money to fight human trafficking and to award scholarships to women in business. Ashley was happy to step in and help with the high-end antiques show which has been in existence since 1975.

To date, Ashley has promoted more than 50 shows. “It’s great to see exhibitors get to educate and interact and learn that people really appreciate their work.” Ashley also has a blog, Ashley’s Finds, through which she emails subscribers about upcoming estate sales and auctions.

During the unique circumstances of 2020, Ashley said she appreciates all of the people that have, “held out through this pandemic.” She had to cancel one show early in the year, but while practicing distancing in lines and requesting everyone wear masks, business has picked back up. She was even able to expand to the outdoor pavilion of the Conway Expo Center for the most recent Bella Rustina show.

Ashley hopes to continue utilizing the pavilion space during the Conway shows, and would someday like to own enough land to host her own shows for the Little Rock/Maumelle location. Her show schedule for 2021 consists of Antique Alley at the Conway Expo Center January 8-10, Bella Rustina in February (TBA) in Little Rock, Zonta Antique Show in Longview Texas March 5-7, Bella Rustina at Conway Expo Center April 9-11 and July 16-18, Bella Rustina in Little Rock September 10-12 and Bella Rustina at Conway Expo Center November 5-7.