Imagine all of the hard work that goes into opening and running an independent clothing boutique, from permits to advertising to buying the right merchandise and building a loyal clientele. There’s also the challenge of competing with other boutiques, in addition to large businesses, in order to make ends meet. When one of the largest hurricanes in the country’s history, Hurricane Maria, descended upon Puerto Rico, boutique owners’ level of uncertainty rose to an unprecedented level. Ripping through the Caribbean island as a Category 5 disaster in September 2017, Hurricane Maria left the nation’s residents with no electricity, running water, or access to channels of communication and necessary services. Around six months later, the recovery is ongoing; about 7 percent of the population still lacks electricity; many are struggling to get back on their feet, both on the island and in the mainland US; schools have closed; and hundreds of thousands have emigrated, mostly to Florida. In the aftermath, the local economy continues to feel the effects of the hurricane, and boutiques are part of the story. Located in the historic and popular Old San Juan district, Collective Request was closed until the beginning of December 2017. Originally an online store established in 2013, the boutique has had a physical presence in the capital city for two years. During the hurricane, water from the roof leaked into the brick-and-mortar store, ruining clothing and other materials, according to owner Ashley Cervantes. The building smelled of humidity, and it took weeks to clean up. Cervantes thought about what the path would be like moving forward. Read more at Racked.