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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 14)

CA: You haven't been able to build up inventories?

Boruchin: Not on the major brands.

CA: Have you ever been able to keep large inventories for an extended period?

Boruchin: Not really. We always turned over stock, even though we keep a large inventory because of the nature of our business. But we kept reordering practically every week. The merchandise used to be available. What is not available anymore is deals. Everybody used to wheel and deal at that time to compete. And merchandise could be bought cheaper. It's been one of our main concerns because we were always consumer-oriented. But we are a consumer company and we were always trying to give the consumer the best deal available. It's been tougher now. We are not able to offer the consumer the same business that we did before. Merchandise is so short. It's impossible to get the deals that we used to get before.

CA: Let's change the subject. You are Cuban-American, living in Miami and in the cigar business. Doesn't that put you at the center of a hurricane?

Boruchin: Definitely. When you live in south Florida and you have a million Cubans, the subject of Cuba is unavoidable. It's subsiding a little now. The conservatism of the Cubans of 10, 15 years ago is not that much anymore. For me, a Cuban cigar is the best cigar in the world. I don't care who gets mad. But I don't sell them, and I fight anyone who does because today, Cuban cigars are my biggest competitor. I'm located in an area where most of my customers are affluent people. They all have access to Cuban cigars. Sometimes they are counterfeit, because the popularity of the Cuban cigar has brought counterfeits into the picture. But whether they are real or counterfeits, I'm losing a tremendous amount of revenue because these people would be smoking the cigars I sell. Still, I am not that crazy to say or that ignorant to say that it is not the best cigar in the world.

CA: Have you noticed any change in attitude in the old guard about what the community's relationship should be with Cuba?

Boruchin: Because of the children, who have been born post-1960 and raised here, the thinking today is much more realistic. I'm not saying that the Cubans here like Castro. He's been in power for over 30 years and there's still no freedom in Cuba. Fidel knows that. He's been told by everybody. So the thinking about the government of Cuba is probably the same. But the feeling, people to people, is different. The people who live there don't have a choice to elect the government. But they're Cubans. The Cubans who live in Cuba and who live in Miami are the same. It's just a geographical situation. My feeling is that there won't be a revolution in Cuba. Everybody knows that. I don't care how conservative a Cuban is here in Miami, he knows Castro isn't going to come down by force. So the thing is to come to a political solution. Maybe it will be created by the Pope coming to Cuba. One thing we know is that people want to live better. If the embargo didn't exist and the relationship between Cuba and the United States were more normal, I think Cubans would have it easier creating a more democratic society. The isolation makes it harder.

CA: When I speak to people in the cigar trade, they all seem to hope that they can return home to Cuba someday. Do you feel there's been enough interest on the part of Cuban-Americans to help their countrymen, or is the focus on making the embargo stronger really hurting the people left in Cuba?

Boruchin: It hasn't worked. At one time they felt that it would work. Some people still feel that way. But not the younger people. You can see it in the last elections. For a Democrat to obtain more than 5 percent of the Cuban vote in Miami used to be unheard of. However, Clinton got 30 or 35 percent of that vote. I think a lot of people have changed their minds.

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