Redwood City’s long-running, family-owned costume shop is a hub for all things Halloween – and beyond.
Maybe you’re looking for the scariest mask, the cutest ears or the most glamorous gown. You might be seeking the perfect outfit for that Halloween party, historical reenactment or boho festival. Or perhaps you need a mustache for your music video (I speak from experience here.) Who, to quote “Ghostbusters,” you gonna call?
No matter the character or occasion, House of Humor – the long-running, independent purveyor of all-things costume – has likely got you covered. The Redwood City business has been making dress-up dreams come true for more than three decades, and that’s no joke.
Approaching the store, you can’t help but catch a glimpse of the“Star Wars” suits in the window, or the spooky figures lurking out front to lure in Halloween shoppers. Enter and you’re in a magical land of make believe, surrounded by a rainbow of wigs, masks, makeup and stockings.
Its huge selection covers costume ideas from classic witches, ghouls and monsters to pop-culture favorites, animals of all sorts, figures from mythology and various historical eras and more. And if you don’t find what you’re looking for in a prepackaged costume, the shelves are stocked with the individual bits and pieces needed to create a one-of-a-kind look.
Locals have grown up with House of Humor, including current owner Mark Greenbaum, who’s been involved since the start. His father, Jack Greenbaum, who’s since retired, started the business 36 years ago. Jack Greenbaum was a distributor of novelties and gag gifts (why yes, his son said, his family did indeed have a great time with the samples he brought home) and previously had a kiosk at Marine World. In the mid-1980s, he took over what was a struggling Redwood City magic shop and made it his own.
“It was at the very beginning stages of adults entering into Halloween,” Mark Greenbaum recalled. “The business just took off.”
The store is still located on the same block of El Camino Real in downtown, but today occupies a larger space than its first digs. And House of Humor has always been a family endeavor.
“I’ve been part of the store since the inception,” Greenbaum said. “Even when I was in high school, way back when, I would be working here part time.”
He estimates that around 80% of House of Humor’s business comes from Halloween sales, but it also caters year-round to school theater productions and fundraising auctions, special events such as Burning Man and Bay to Breakers, and any other festivities that may require costumes or accessories.
“Wigs by far are the bestsellers in this store,” he said, adding that House of Humor boasts the biggest wig selection of any Bay Area costume shop.
When asked what’s trending this year, Greenbaum demurred.
“There’s always going to be one item that the news wants to tell you is the popular item – this year, maybe it’s ‘Barbie’ – but a lot of people don’t want the trend,” he said. “They want variety, they want to be unique and creative.” Groovy looks from the 1970s, he conceded, are perennial party favorites.
Like many retailers, House of Humor has suffered since the pandemic and business has yet to stabilize. Currently, it employs eight part-time, temporary employees for the Halloween season. Facing competition from online vendors and the temporary chain pop-ups that occupy vacant buildings for a few months, then disappear, Greenbaum hopes House of Humor will continue to stand out for its selection, service and local, independent identity.
“We don’t sell online,” Greenbaum said. “We’re a brick and mortar, mom-and-pop shop and we want you to come in and have the experience. We excel at having customer service. If you have no idea what you want, my employees are trained to be able to narrow it down and find you the perfect costume.”
Greenbaum is particularly proud of his range of high-end items, such as luxurious velvet goth-style gowns, dazzling beaded dresses, intricate masks, jewelry and accessories, and a new line of mustaches and beards, which he said is part of what makes his shop special.
“It’s harder and harder to do business and get people into the store, but my goal is to make us different enough that you’re not going to find anything similar at the other stores.”
What with being surrounded by Halloween merch and costume supplies for much of his day-to-day life, does Greenbaum still enjoy getting into the Halloween spirit himself?
“The rest of the year I’ve got my business hat on and I’m selling costumes, but I always dress up for Halloween,” he said. “I usually tell people that I’m exhausted for Halloween,” he laughed, “but I will find something at the last minute and just try to create something fun.”
House of Humor is located at 747 El Camino Real, Redwood City.