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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 6)

CA: Did you make a $125 a week?

Boruchin: I was able to do better. But, if you divide that between the hours I was spending in the store, it worked out to about 30 cents an hour.

CA: What was the name of the store?

Boruchin: The drugstore used to be called the Hotel Pharmacy, and our store was called the Hotel Pharmacy Tobacco Shop. It was inside the pharmacy. From there, we acquired another little store on 5th and Washington, which was the heart of Miami Beach at the time. It was near the gymnasium where Cassius Clay used to train before he changed his name to Muhammad Ali. There was some action there with the Dundee brothers as the promoters. They brought a lot of big smokers to that area. I had the tobacco stand right under the gym. We did very well there but we were open 20 hours a day. So, it was a tremendous stress.

That's when I met the regional sales manager for General Cigar. They used to call on me because I used to buy a lot of White Owls and Tiparillos and a lot of brands. This guy liked me, and he used to say he didn't understand why a young man like me had to be behind the counter selling cigars to these old people. He said my future was maybe to work for a cigar company. He felt that if I came with him and I worked the way he expected me to work, he promised me that I was going to do very well with the company. He was a big inspiration for me. His name was Earl Casten. I give him credit for building General Cigar's business in the South. He offered me a job as his supermarket man. At that time, many supermarkets sold cigars and had big displays of cigars. They told me that if I went into a place that is not a supermarket, I would be fired. My job was strictly to go into supermarkets and launch the distribution and make sure General Cigar got the most prominent position.

I had an edge against the other salesmen because I still had my cigar stand. I used to take the other guys' cigars off the rack, put General's in and bring the other cigars to my shop. I had no problem. The other people couldn't do it because they couldn't get rid of the cigars. I did a hell of a job in supermarkets.

CA: That's a very creative approach to selling.

Boruchin: Taking the competitor off the shelf? Yes, it was, but the General people liked it and that's the way I started with General Cigar in 1963. By the way, I started with $85 a week salary.

CA: But you kept your stores?

Boruchin: I did keep them. But I promised myself that the moment my salary went over $120 a week, I would sell the stores. I used to finish at 5 p.m. with General and run to my stores. It was really stressful with the long working hours. But it didn't take me too long to reach my goal, and I sold both stores.

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