Sunday, June 16, 2024

MJ Pullins. (Photo: Hubba Hubba)

Thinking about how to celebrate Valentines in the coming week? Get advice from a professional in the fields of romance, sex and local business. MJ Pullins became owner of Hubba Hubba, Cambridge’s iconic adult boutique, in 2019 after majoring in art history at Wellesley College and graduate courses in marketing at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. She is also longtime Cambridge resident and knows all the best spots, new or well established.

Pullins’ Hubba Hubba, which opened in Central Square in 1978 under Susan Phelps, is now at 2 Ellery St., Mid-Cambridge, and open seven days a week.

We talked with her in February; her responses were condensed and edited for publication.

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What’s a Valentine’s date that won’t break the budget?

Yes, there are all our lovely, fancy restaurants, and everyone can do the nice dinner and things like that. But getting creative and finding something new and different is really the more fun challenge – and these are cities for the young, with so many things for people of more modest means. If you haven’t gone to the Harvard Museum of Natural History (26 Oxford St., in the Baldwin neighborhood near Harvard Square), go see the glass flowers. It’s free on Sunday, which not everybody knows.

What do you love about those glass flowers and that museum?

It’s just different, something you will never see anywhere else, and it’s that beautiful mix of blending art with science. Here are these flowers that live forever, and the absolute delicacy of something that is made of glass. The museum changes it up, too. There’s always something new to see. Every now and again they bring out the rotting-fruit glass, which in old-school art history always represents mortality and things like that.

A glass flower at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. (Photo: Lorianne DiSabato via Flickr)

What if a restaurant is wanted?

If you want to go fancy, I might recommend Waypoint (1030 Massachusetts Ave., Riverside near Harvard Square), which a lot of people don’t know about. What you do about Cambridge parking, I don’t know. Everybody asks, and I can’t help you.

Helmand (143 First St., East Cambridge), an Afghan restaurant, is epically good and elegant and wonderful and high service, but without high prices. And it really helps support people in Afghanistan. The brothers who opened it – and it’s been around for more than 30 years – were part of the resistance movement in Afghanistan. It’s one of those places you really just want to support.

The Helmand restaurant in East Cambridge. (Photo: Helmand via Facebook)

And for romantic dining without a restaurant?

Formaggio Kitchen gourmet shops (358 Huron Ave., Huron Village, and 94 Hampshire St., in The Port neighborhood near Kendall Square) are not the more budget-friendly thing, but you can go into Formaggio, buy a bunch of gorgeous foods and just go picnic on the bank of the Charles. You can do that in winter – my God, it’s like 40 or 50 degrees out today.

For a coffee date?

For those of us who don’t drink, go to 1369 Coffee House (1369 Cambridge St., Inman Square, and 757 Massachusetts Ave., Central Square) They’re wonderful.

For those who drink?

The Druid (1357 Cambridge St., Inman Square). My partner’s and my second date was at the Druid, for fish and chips. I don’t know how they keep finding the best cooks ever, but for the past 15 years, they are consistently always the best. And it’s so romantic – crowded, but romantic.

For an active Valentine’s date?

Of course I’m going to put a plug in for the recently reopened ManRay nightclub (40 Prospect St., Central Square, open starting at 9 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays) – getting dressed up in your best ’80s and ’90s fashion (or, if you can’t fit into the old ones, we can help you with buying new!) and going and dancing to New Order and Pet Shop Boys and all the classics. What better way to feel sexy?

A Central Square Florist sidewalk display. (Photo: Jackie L. via Yelp)

What about real flowers?

Central Square Florist. We have a bouquet from the store at all times. One of my first jobs was working in advertising at the Cambridge Chronicle and Cambridge Tab. Central Square Florist was my weekly given ad. The current owner’s grandparents were running the store; they took me aside and taught me the basics of marketing. And so this is my opportunity to pay it forward.

The store has been around since 1929, and the legacy stores in Cambridge need our support. It’s the parking regulations, it’s everything. It’s getting rough, and they are still killing it.

What about candy?

Give Tootsie Rolls or Junior Mints, because their maker, Cambridge Brands, is the last left in what used to be the center of candy making in the United States. (The reason we have train tracks through the city was to deliver milk and sugar and vanilla to Necco, the maker of Necco wafers.) This is our secret Willy Wonka factory that nobody’s allowed in. It’s just this secret building right on Main Street, right past a church and U-Haul, and they don’t do tours of the factory – but on Tuesdays you can tell they’re making Junior Mints because you can smell the mint. I had to give out Tootsie Rolls at Halloween just because I have to support Cambridge, even though everyone’s looking at me like I’m mad.

Final tips for February romance?

Another great idea most people don’t know: the Cambridge Center for Adult Education (42 Brattle St., Harvard Square). It has one-night classes where you make a Moroccan meal, or learn wines. They do literature classes. They do drawing classes. This is one of the best resources in this city, and it’s super affordable.