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An Interview with Oscar Boruchin

Owner of Licenciados and 8-9-8 Collection cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 9)

CA: Was General Cigar's business growing even though the market was shrinking?

Boruchin: I am proud to say that in my territory, there were increases every year. When the Macanudo brand came on the market [in the early 1970s], it was a tremendous boost. The first year, year and a half, we had a tremendous fight, but the Cullmans really are cigar people, and the effort and the consistency of quality that they insisted on for Macanudo made it a success.

CA: Was there a fight with the brands already on the market?

Boruchin: Gulf & Western had acquired Consolidated, so it was a fight between us and Don Diego.

CA: Don Diego was a Canary Island cigar at the time. Was it the biggest competitor to Macanudo?

Boruchin: Yes, but Flamenco and Montecruz were important, too. The big break for me was when Consolidated moved its operations to the Dominican Republic. People didn't like the quality and the product as much. Macanudo became really strong because the quality was there. At that time, Macanudo [Rothschilds] sold for 75 cents.

CA: Let's see, you've risen up the ranks of General Cigar, you have a large territory in the United States, and you decide in 1981 to get back into the retail business, which is where you started. What caused you to go back to retail?

Boruchin: Mike [Mersel] was one of my biggest customers in Florida. For a long time he had been telling me that he wanted to retire. He was tired and he wanted me to buy the store.

CA: Had Mike's store always been in that location on Arthur Godfrey Road in Miami Beach?

Boruchin: Yes. Since 1950. It was one of the biggest players in the South in the cigar business. As a matter of fact, only Lew Rothman and Famous Cigars were bigger than Mike's. That was true even though Mike's volume didn't reach $2 million a year in 1981. But he was one of my big customers and he kept telling me that I could make more money working for him if we established a wholesale operation. And working for General had its limitations. I was traveling 40 weeks a year. I also knew that one day I wanted to have my own business. I set my mind to creating the wholesale division. But it wasn't easy. I was making decent money with General and I had all kinds of assurances from them. But the decision was essentially made when Mike called me one day and said that his lease would expire in the summer. He had about eight or 10 months to go. He said, either I come with him or he was going to liquidate the store.

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