Ashley Campbell: using the arts in a multitude of ways

Ashley Campbell manages Rustic Roots in Shelburne and incorporates her artistic side into the job.
Ashley Campbell manages Rustic Roots in Shelburne and incorporates her artistic side into the job.

Ashley Campbell never planned on a career as a restaurant manager, but that’s the job she finds herself in, and she has no regrets. Campbell has a multi-faceted role at Rustic Roots in Shelburne: interviewing, hiring and managing the staff, handling reservations, dealing with special events, tracking inventory, ordering beverages, and working as a hostess and bartender.

Although restaurant management wasn’t her career goal, Campbell does have a background in fine dining. She and her partner Mike Orfan worked at a fancy French restaurant in New Jersey, which provided her first exposure to the business. She subsequently worked at two other restaurants before following Orfan to Vermont when he was looking for a change of pace. The two looked at businesses on Craigslist and came to Shelburne in the late summer of 2012. Initially, Orfan wanted to use his new location to concentrate on retail sales but soon the restaurant took center stage.

When Campbell completed her move to Shelburne in the spring of 2013, her intention was to use her advertising and graphic arts degree from Temple University to go into advertising and design. While the restaurant was getting started, she took a job at the Inn at Shelburne Farms but helped Orfan out with Rustic Roots’ branding by creating a logo and designing the menus and website. Soon, she found herself working there full-time. Campbell invites other artists to display their work at the restaurant, holding six annual exhibits. She admits her personal taste is for “edgier” art, but she presents a mix of mediums and designs. The last show was a display of the work of staff members. One staffer, Liz Swindell, has come up with a Canvas and a Cocktail event which takes place monthly.

Campbell has a rather unusual art medium on her resume. She and her father have a custom pumpkin-carving business. Campbell admits pumpkin carving is no longer a big part of her life. “It’s seasonal and time consuming,” she said “but it’s a great hobby.” Her specialty is doing custom portraits by making templates on her computer and transferring them to a pumpkin.

That work once landed her on the Dr. Oz show but last fall, Campbell achieved national press with her Bernkin; a pumpkin that looked like Bernie Sanders. It took her ten hours to carve the pumpkin which came from Isham Family Farm in Williston. Campbell said carved pumpkins can last for a week, particularly if they are soaked in a water bath with a touch of bleach when they are not being displayed, but the Bernkin lasted almost two weeks. Campbell was surprised at some of the vitriol directed at her, Senator Sanders, and her adopted state in the comments section of the paper, but noted that not one person criticized her design work.

Campbell and Orfan have settled in Shelburne not far from the restaurant. At this point, Campbell is so busy she doesn’t have a lot of time to explore her new community. “I’ve got quite a lot on my plate,” she said “But I’m really happy to be here.”