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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

Oscar Boruchin owns some of the most sought-after brands in the United States today: Licenciados and the 8-9-8 Collection. Boruchin, 63, has built those brands over the last 15 years since he left a job with General Cigar Co. to become a part owner of Mike's Cigars, a cigar shop institution. Today, Boruchin is the sole proprietor of the business, which includes not only his brands, but a large wholesale and mail-order operation and a world-class retail store in the exclusive Bal Harbour area of Miami Beach.

Boruchin's story is a true rags to riches tale. He fled Cuba after the family business was nationalized in 1960, arriving in Miami "virtually penniless." He began driving a cab, scrambling to support his family. His association with the cigar business began when a customer, a Cuban exile fresh off the plane, paid his cab fare with cigars, the only possession of value Fidel Castro allowed his countrymen to take out of the country.

Boruchin has a rare vantage point in the cigar industry. He is a brand owner, a wholesale supplier of other retailers and a retailer. He has seen a small, profitable business grow into a $22 million-plus enterprise in the space of four years. And, he's recently opened a spacious new store, confident that the cigar business will remain strong. Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado, discussed all aspects of the cigar business with Boruchin in a wide-ranging interview.

Cigar Aficionado: You are a Cuban-American. Tell us about your life before coming to America.

Boruchin: My father and mother were born in Russia. They came to Cuba thinking that they would be able to go on to America--pretty quick. But after three or four years in Cuba, when they finally had the opportunity to come to the United States, they felt that the Cuban people were so nice, and that they were making a living. They decided to stay.

CA: What year was that?

Boruchin: My father came in 1923 and my mother came in 1926. He left her behind in Europe--she was his girlfriend--and then he brought her to Cuba and married her. So it was the late 1920s. I was born in Havana in 1933. My father owned a little store in the country for a long time. I went to school in Havana.

CA: Your father had a retail store?

Boruchin: My father had a general merchandise store in a little town called Calimete. Calimete is in the Matanzas province, almost on the border with Las Villas. It was about five hours away from Havana, near a sugar mill.

CA: How old were you and what year was it that you came to America?

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