For Ashley Melchionna ’10, what started as a whim turned into a fashion lover’s dream. Her boutique Bellisima by Ashley Maria in Easton is a popular destination for local shoppers looking for chic yet affordable casual wear.
“I had my second son in the middle of the pandemic and had recently stepped down as head cheerleading coach at Moravian,” Melchionna recalls. “I needed something creative and have always loved fashion, so I thought I’d give the business a try.”
She started her clothing boutique online in 2021, and in September 2022, she opened her first brick-and-mortar store on Cattell Street in College Hill. She recently moved the boutique to 4th Street in Easton’s downtown.
What makes Bellisima by Ashley Maria so special is that it offers unique, stylish pieces at reasonable prices. “My philosophy is that if I wear something only once, I don’t want to spend a fortune on it, especially trendy items,” Melchionna says. “So I take that into consideration when I choose products for the store.”
Bellisima carries a range of casual wear, including dresses, tunics, jumpsuits, jeans, T-shirts, and rotating holiday items. Melchionna says if she had to describe the bulk of her client base, it would be “the trendy mom,” but the store has selections for women of all ages.
Melchionna curates the whole Bellisima collection herself, with most of her pieces coming from wholesalers who focus on smaller, independent designers from New York, Los Angeles, and other cities in the United States.
The store also features selected local products. “We carry Easton Candle Company, Very Hair, made by a fellow Moravian graduate, and other products made locally,” Melchionna says.
Melchionna runs Bellisima in addition to working full-time as CFO of a Phillipsburg-based communications company. All while being mom to two young boys.
She credits much of her success in juggling all her roles to good time management, a skill she developed at Moravian, where she majored in business management and minored in marketing.
“At Moravian, I was a fulltime student and cheerleader, and I was in Tri Sigma sorority. The balance of doing it all helped me develop the time management skills I use today,” she says.
The business and marketing knowledge she gained at Moravian and her work experience helped Melchionna transition her first 200-square-foot store on Cattell Street to her 4th street location, which is double the size.
“We get tons of foot traffic in the new spot—it’s been amazing! The Easton Business Association does so much for small businesses, and we all support each other—it’s great to be a part of,” she says.
Most of the work Melchionna does for Bellisima is behind the scenes, but all her efforts are geared toward moving the business forward. This year Bellisima featured a hut at the Easton Winter Market.
“This was our first year doing the Winter Market, and I loved meeting so many Easton residents and people who came in from out of the area.
“We bought what we thought we would sell, and we sold out almost every weekend. I was constantly restocking and pulling things from the store; the hut was definitely a success,” she says.
Melchionna has six part-time employees at Bellisima who help her run the store, and she enjoys the balance between her full-time role as CFO and managing the store. “I would love to open up more stores in the Lehigh Valley or destination spots,” she says. “Next year, maybe we will do the downtown Bethlehem huts during the holidays. No matter what, I want to keep growing.”
To anyone who dreams of starting his or her own business, or who has already started, Melchionna advises, keep going. “You’ll have downtimes that will make you want to give up, but don’t. If you work hard, eventually you will have prosperous times, too.”—Elizabeth Shimer Bowers