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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 5)

CA: How did you know that he was a buyer?

Boruchin: Somebody told me about three or four people in New York, and that he used to advertise Cuban cigars for 60 cents each on a big sign on the wall. So I figured he had a lot of Cuban cigars. I sat down in his office, and I asked him for $12 a box. He nearly broke my arm shaking it. He never said yes or no, but he always paid the freight. I shipped him all I could buy. And he bought. I kidded with him not too long ago that I wanted some of my cigars back. I was shipping almost an unlimited amount, and he was selling everything.

CA: But we're talking about hundreds of boxes that you were basically buying one or two boxes at a time from all the people that came off the planes. Were there not importers bringing in large quantities?

Boruchin: No, I was buying them one by one from the public.

CA: How long did that last?

Boruchin: About seven or eight months, and then Castro stopped allowing people to bring the boxes of cigars. My business died immediately.

CA: By now, it must be 1962.

Boruchin: Yes. And I was out of business. Zelig owed me like $6,000 or $7,000 for cigars.

CA: You must have been doing very well if you could operate and have some guy owe you that much money.

Boruchin: I was making a few hundred dollars. I already left the poverty level at that point. I wasn't poor. So, Zelig had two stores. One of them was located on Lincoln Road and one on Alton Road inside a drugstore. The owner said to me, "Now what are you going to do?" I really had no idea, but I knew the cigar business a little, especially the Cuban end, so he suggested to me that to pay off his debt to me, I could take over the little store on Alton Road in Miami Beach. I asked him, How much could I make? He said, "Oh, you can make, easy, $125 a week. In 1962, $125 a week wasn't bad. And I would be working on my own. I figured I could do a little better because that store had an absentee owner. I knew I would take better care of it. That started the most terrible period of my life. The store was open from 7 a.m. to 1 at night. We used no help. So, it was me, my wife and my father-in-law taking care of that little business without any help. It was a neighborhood store and we were selling, two, three hundred dollars a day. Cigarettes, candy.

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