Eagle Rock resident Victor Migenes is the owner of La Plata Cigars, est. 1947, by his father. | Photo by Christopher Nyerges

Cigar talk with Victor Migenes

2021 Christopher Nyerges Editions January

By Christopher Nyerges

Victor Migenes, owner of La Plata Cigars, is an old-school, hard-working Eagle Rock resident. We met up recently at the Old L.A. Farmers Market to discuss cigars, life and the fading of old-world cultures here in Los Angeles.

Old-timers and cigar aficionados will remember La Plata Cigars — established in 1947 in downtown L.A. by Migenes’ father, Victor, Sr. — where the finest cigars were made by Cuban and Latin American artisans. 

I first toured La Plata in 1985. What a place! The walk-in humidor was amazing and Victor gave us the grand tour with pride, just as he did when Huell Howser came knocking to do a segment for his famed PBS program, Videolog. 

La Plata also catered to celebrity clients, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and George Hamilton. Desi Arnaz, a friend of Victor, Sr., used the factory and the workers for the “I Love Lucy” segment in which Lucy, while visiting Cuba, disguises herself as an old Cuban to get a job rolling cigars.

As a boy, Migenes would work in his father’s factory after school, sweeping up left-over tobacco clippings. In his teen years, Migenes delivered cigars on his bicycle to downtown executives. Victor, Sr. taught his son how to roll cigars and to balance the books in a business where a lot of cash changed hands. 

After his father suffered a heart attack in 1983, Migenes found himself holding the reins to the company. He remembers the day: “As they were rolling him away to the hospital, he managed to pull out the shop keys from his pocket and handed them to me telling me to sell the shop, keep the shop, do what you must. It is your turn now, you’re the boss.” 

Migenes traveled to Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, purchasing tobacco grown from the Cuban seed. He built La Plata into a national boutique brand, selling through distributorships around the country and opening a factory in the Dominican Republic in 1991.

Migenes sold the downtown location in 2007; it is now the 2nd Street Cigar Lounge in a rapidly gentrifying part of downtown L.A. Migenes continues to manufacture and distribute La Plata cigars. He occasionally smokes a cigar, pointing out that cigars and pipe tobacco have none of the chemicals that are so liberally laden into cigarettes. “I’m not saying that cigars are good for you – I’m just saying it’s the lesser of the pleasurable evils,” he explains with a smile.

These days, Migenes is busy getting ready to launch a new cigar blend in early 2021. But he is also taking more time to pursue his musical interests – he has played with Dance Hall Pimps, a New Orleans-influenced rock band with several soundtrack credits to its name. He is also a licensed real estate agent, helping people in Northeast L.A. buy and sell their homes.

Victor, Sr. survived his 1983 heart attack and lived to see the success that Migenes made of La Plata Cigars. Migenes said that taking over the family business had not been his dream, but he remembers how happy it made his father “to see the fruits of his labor.”

“Coming to America and raising his family in a modern world with an old school trade was a proud accomplishment of his long, happy life on this planet,” he said.

Migenes can be reached at vicmigenes@gmail.com.

Christopher Nyerges, the director of the School of Self-Reliance and author of books on self-reliance, can be reached at Schoolofself-reliance.com

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85 thoughts on “Cigar talk with Victor Migenes

  1. Hey! Great to hear about you. Please keep me in touch with your articles. Loved it. Thanks

  2. I remember going to the Figueroa location long ago and of course, have frequented 2nd Street.
    What can I say about La Plata? The trend for so many years has been darker and more robust.. just like spicy fried chicken.. or fusion this or fusion that.. louder is better.. the more outrageous is better. NOPE, La Plata has it right. A good cigar. A good value. Period. A cigar must be pleasant and a joy. Not a fight. Smoke a La Plata and you will enjoy your cognac, scotch, or even a Chardonay or Champagne/Sparkling wine. A good cigar compliments the evening.

  3. Great article! I enjoyed going to the 2nd Street Cigar Lounge and learning about cigars from Victor, not to mention smoking some too.

  4. Wow. I’d heard of La Plata, but didn’t know the story. Interesting history. I’m a non-smoker. Who would guess an article about the lesser of two”pleasurable (smoking…) evils” would wet my whistle and make me think about lighting one of those puppies up?!

  5. I’m a big cigar smoker and La Plata is a great Cigar! Victor did an excellent job with the blend and we loved smoking the La Plata brand.

  6. I remember La Plata when they were on Grand near the Mayan and later on 2nd Street when on the DTLA Art Walk. Great fun!

  7. Excellent article! I had no idea we had an aficionado living in our midst, here in Eagle Rock. What a great family business story…

  8. Great writeup!!! I’ve had the pleasure to know Victor for several years now and he is hands down, “The Cigar King of LA”. Not to mention a fantastic real estate mogul if you’r on the market to purchase a home. In fact, I purchased one of my investment properties through him a few years ago. Keep doing what you are doing victor and cary that LA cigar tradition that your late father created. Can’t wait for the 2021 collection!!!!

  9. Great article. What a great family history and tradition to keep going.

  10. Love reading about the success of this local business. Looking forward to hearing about the launch of Victor’s new Cigar blend. Great article!

  11. I remember La Plata Cigars at 2nd St. Cigars & Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. They were one of the 1st Galleries involved in the Downtown LA Art Walk starting 16 years ago. Great Cigars and Art!

  12. Powerful story and great article. I’ll have to go check out 2nd Street Cigar Lounge.

  13. I have been a fan of La Plata and Victor for over 25 years! Thrilled to see this story…hope Victor revives the brand…next to world peace, nothing else could be good news for us La Plata FANatics.

  14. Incredible story! I’ll have to go experience La Plata sometime soon.

  15. Wonderful to see this historic brand continue under Victor’s knowledgeable stewardship. Viva Victor and Viva La Plata!

  16. Great to hear that La Plata Cigars is making a comeback. I was a fan of the original brand and am looking forward to the new blends. Please keep me up to date on the release.

  17. So happy you’re making a comeback…”Put La Plata in your cigar and smoke it”

  18. Haha! I remember the that day your father came through with the cigar story. And this article validate it all! Great writing!

  19. Great read. Been a fan of La Plata for years! Awesome to hear that La Plata is making a comeback!

  20. I’ve known La Plata for decades now and I loved reading this! Excited to see where the brand goes next!

  21. Wow! Great article! I’ve smoked and loved the La Plata cigars for years! Victor is a great person. Love to read about cigars and the people behind them.

  22. La Plata was always a great quality cigar! So much history and tradition ! I can’t wait to try a new La Plata blend, hopefully with the handsome Victor !

  23. I have fond memories of smoking a La Plata cigar in front of the shop. Great art gallery too. Victor and I talked a lot about the painting of his grand mother. She was one interesting lady!

  24. Awesome write up about an iconic company. Glad to see it is going forward in Victor’s hands in any way that it can.

  25. La Plata Cigars are some if not the best I have tried hands down. Paired up with a fine brandy is a treat. Great article too.

  26. That is a great article. I have known Victor since the mid 70s and recall the first time I went to La Plata. The ambiance was like no other. You saw the people in there tables with the leaves rolling the fine cigars. This was one of a kind cigar shop. Victor had the cigars made for my sons birth announcement. We had some great times. That was really fun to read.

  27. Had many a nice time at La Plata. Victor was always such a great host and not a bad drummer. You always felt like you were getting a little taste of LA history when you went there. Good times.

  28. This is a fascinating story and a wonderful piece of culture from old Los Angeles. There must be more to this story? Thanks for writing about something that has survived many years!

  29. Excellent article! Victor is an old friend and like the man himself the cigars are first class!

  30. I have very fond memories of La Plata, I was also honored to have a personal tour of the factory. Great cigar and great company and Victor is certainly continuing in his father’s footsteps.

  31. Victor along with LaPlata are L.A. legend. What his father started and Victor inherited still has huge credibility in Los Angeles. From the great consumer ready variety, to the custom rolled cigars for corporate parties and celebrities and of course, the elite. Vic is a great guy, with a super positive attitude. I’m certain that whatever he does within the cigar industry will be envied and respected. Awesome article.

  32. Great place I will smoke a cigar back in the early 90s after working to relax and see the workers rolling cigars. Was a great place to to visit and talk to the guys.

  33. This is great. Love the story of dad handing over the keys and saying it’s all yours!

  34. Great article, Victor and La Plata are living legends in LA and the cigar industry

  35. I was lucky enough to attend a few art and cigar nights at the 2nd St Cigar Lounge. 2nd St cigar lounge was always filled with conversations at the tables, with a soft scent of La Plata cigars in the air. Plus there was Beautiful art by Victor’s Grandmother on the lounge walls.The 2nd St lounge was filled with family history. Today whenever smoking a La Plata cigar, you can feel the history, love, and quality put into each hand made La Plata cigar! Victor is doing a fantastic job of bringing the love and history with his La Plata brand I can’t wait to see more additions to this cigar historic collection!

  36. Great read. La Plata means so much to the history of DTLA! Now I want a cigar!

  37. Outstanding profile! Always enjoyed the La Plata brand and its great to know tbe backstory behind it. ????

  38. I worked at Taix French Restaurant back in the 90s when CIGAR NIGHT was a regular thing.. I knew La Plata even then! Vic is an all around polymath- wine, cigars, real estate, music ( have any of you heard this guy drum? DEM CHOPS!!! )
    GREAT article!

  39. great article. Vic I had no idea! way cool to read about your life (before real estate). I see a movie deal here!

  40. Victor Sr was a great friend and father figure. While at UCLA In 1968 I started filming Victor and his cigar enterprise…Victor JR..(Tito) was a young aspiring drummer at the time…many a meal at their home and many a cigar and cafecito at the place next to the Mayan.
    Only fond memories of Victor Sr. and great memories of watching Tito grow into a “cigar entrepreneur”. What a great story of son following in fathers footsteps and growing it into an amazing big business. Best of luck on the new enterprise. Let’s hear more of that story.
    P.S. when can we see the film of the original La Plata, Tito has my footage.
    Harry Keramidas, ACE, AMPAS, MPEG

  41. Thank you for writing an article about this iconic man and his superb family cigar business. I can’t wait for his new collection to be available for sale, and the fact that he will be able to ship them to me in Kansas makes me salivate. I prefer my cigars with a delightful drink that Geoffrey Holder turned me on to, a Caribbean drink made from Mount Gay Rum, and Bitterlemon (or that can be substituted with tonic water), and a squeeze of fresh lime. It’s a perfect drink for anytime of the day or night, with or without food, and most certainly with a fine cigar like La Plata.
    Congrats on an informative article. Tell us more, especially about the Second Street Cigars /Art Gallery.

  42. Victor, Great article glad you are back And La Plata is back. I still can remember when I was in L.A. on business, I would stop in and have a Cigar with Dad. It was always special! I know will be smoking LA PLATA soon! As ever, Dick Servetnick

  43. What an awesome article! I have so many great memories of La Plata, Victor and all the good times we had in LA back in the day. Victor is just one of those people you never forget. Kind, generous, and living life fully!

  44. I’ve known La Plata and Vic for years. Love ’em both, maybe even in that order. Vic is one of those people that seems to have lived 4 or 5 lives to everyone else’s 1. The Most Interesting Man in Eagle Rock.

  45. Love the article! I’ve known La Plata Cigars for a long time & have fond memories of events where they had someone hand rolling cigars right in front of you. La Plata is an important part of Los Angeles history. I’ve also know Victor for many years and his story… his family story is so interesting, so American Dream.

  46. Great story! I love La Plata Cigars! Very elegant and full flavored cigars. Wonderful backstory of family and business.

  47. DARLING VIKTOR YOU LOOK EVEN SEXIER AT THIS MATURE A E THAN 20 YEARS AGO WHEN WE MET/ I hope you don’t mind if I add this lovely story to our short two page article I asked you to write for my new book. ( number 17 after the Happy Hooker from 1971) XAVIERA HOLLANDERS HAPPY HOUSE.. definitely we hope to meet you in the healthy flesh again once the entire world has had their vaccination shots… May I live that long for it to happen. love also from my man Philip.

  48. This story brought a smile to my face! I love the La Plata brand and have very fond memories of “the boys” smoking these cigars at family get-togethers. Can’t wait to see what they’ve got cooking next ??

  49. Aw! I had know idea. Very cool loved the end. Also wanting to know more about his musical talent!

  50. Great article, about an awesome part of history, I’m very familiar with the LA PLATA brand.. I love to smoke a great cigar once in a while. 🙂

  51. Los Angeles original. I can recall doing big fashion showsAnd underground fashion events and late 80s and Through the 90s ! One of our features ,Victor and La Plata cigars .
    Besides all the fashion side show elements!We would have Victors Cigar rollers there. It was always a big hit, it was great to see all the fashionista’s walking around smoking on La Plata cigars !So much history and Im sure thousands of story’s to be had . What a great read ? can’t wait for the follow up article ?
    David Cordova

  52. I don’t often smoke, but when I do, it’s La Plata cigars! Thanks for sharing this story with us!

  53. Nice to know a bit of the history of Victor and I have smoke La Plata cigar and loved it. By the way I’m in Miami, FL and you can’t find La Plata here.
    Life is Good !!!

  54. Just read this Victor. Great story. I’m wondering how many hats you wear? Nice to hear from you. Happy New Year and continued success in all your endeavors.

  55. Interesting article about Victor and the history of La Plata cigars! Never knew about the Desi/Lucy stuff!

  56. Victor is a dear friend for going on 30 years, truly a cool dude, always super positive, funny and talented as hell! I remember some crazy fun times jamming, making music together in his studio, going on nature adventures and smoking these fine La Plata cigars he crafted oh, so well. We’re still friends across the miles and i’m grateful for that. So pumped that he is forging on and still building a cigar empire! Well done, Victor!

  57. Great article. A slice of true Americana. Been a cigar guy for more than 1/2 my life. During that time I have enjoyed my share of La Plata’s~ So happy to hear that they are launching a new line. I’m going to smoke tonight in honor of Vic (Sr. and Jr.).

  58. Oh WOW! My Uncle smoked La Plata’s. Such a cool historical landmark. Nice to it’s still going strong!

  59. Great article! Very informative. I knew nothing about cigars it was fascinating to learn the history of the company and the cigars.

  60. Nice! I remember sending cigars to then Gov. Regan and John Wayne from La Plata, how cool was that!!

  61. Amazing tale of family history and loyalty. A fan of cigar smokers, I am continually impressed with the man behind the drums, Victor Migenes…as an early comment mentions, he has many lives to most people’s one…Los Angeles history is so fascinating, but often overlooked. Kudos to Boulevard Sentinel for its continuing contributions to local stories. Perhaps an article on Victor’s intricate miniature Christmas time installation would be in order. Or more about his musical accomplishments. I can see that he might be building a visible fan base, an as a humble man, many may not know of his many accomplishments. I, for one, remain a consistent and loyal friend and fan… so how about some more articles on this guy and on cigars and on any number of his talented friends and colleagues. Happy New Year to all.

  62. One of my favorite cigar brands! Not much of a smoker but when I do smoke it’s usually La Plata. I enjoy the taste.
    Great article!

  63. Great to read the history! 2nd St. Cigars was a around the corner from my gallery some years ago and it was always a pleasure to see and talk with Victor. Keep up the good work!

  64. I love this story! Very well done. I love the rich cultural history and the colorful characters. More like this. Victor is amazing! The world needs these kinds of profiles now more than ever

  65. Great article. In the mid eighties Victor gave me my first cigar education in his small shop on Grand. Love La Plata cigers!

  66. Victor Migenes is a renaissance man who carries on old school tradition and adapts it to today’s world, all with great charm, character, and integrity. The LA Plata story makes me proud to be a native Angeleno.

  67. Fantastic article on a great family owned business. I am a huge fan of LA Plata and Victor. Articles like this one highlight the American experience. SUPPORT ÑOCAL BUSINESSES! AND ÑOCAL MUSIC!!

  68. Vic or anybody can give me some good advice as a beginner of fine premium cigars smoked the cheap crappy gas station cigars tried a acid kuba kuba and fell in love with that cigar also have tried the Tatiana groovy blue and rum flavored cigars love those too just ordered the drew estates factory smokes variety pack along with 5 macanudo inspurado white robustos from best cigar prices.com I’m a mild to medium guy tried a full bodied churchill a couple a days ago and it was to strong it get me sick love the flavored and flavored infused cigars been watching Tim from cigars daily on you tube he gives good advice also got a brand new desk top humidor for Christmas so I’m trying to build up a stock of cigars so I have a new passion and love for good premium cigars now I’m like a kid in a candy store and wish I could get back the money I spent on cheap shitty cigars it’s is like a whole new world for me would appreciate any advice thanks

  69. I have known Victor for over 40 years he has always worked hard since La Plata was on Grand making deliveries on bicycle.

    La Plata is all Quality and Victor continues with this as his mission.

    I am not surprised to see how successful he continues to be ,this is how he was raised up was taught to always succeed.

    I have had the honor of knowing his family nothing but class.

    May you continue to be blessed.

    Love it !!!!!!

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