TARPON SPRINGS, Fla. (WFLA) — Tarpon Springs in Pinellas County is known as the “Sponge Capital of the World” and for its Greek culture.
The Spongeorama Sponge Factory is a local gem that has been around since the 60s and sells a large collection of natural sponges.
“If it wasn’t for these gentlemen that go out on their boats, we wouldn’t have sponges,” Spongeorama Store Manager Xanthi Zembillas said.
Zembillas grew up in Tarpon Springs and become knowledgeable on different varieties of sponges, like wool, yellow and grass sea sponges.
The shop sells several sponges, harvested by local divers that can be used for washing dishes, cars, and even bathing.
“It’s well worth every penny cause it feeds somebody. It’s somebody’s livelihood,” she said.
Greek sponge divers in Tarpon Springs began harvesting sponges in the early 1900s.
“We went from, way back, from 500 boats to we’re lucky if we have 10,” Zembillas said. “Maybe three of them are actively working.”
In addition to sponges, Spongeorama also sells shells, soap, souvenirs and daily dolphin cruise tickets.
Inside the shop, visitors can watch an informational video on the local history of sponges and the connection they have to Greek culture in Tarpon Springs.
Spongeorama Sponge Factory is located at 510 Dodecanese Blvd. in Tarpon Springs and is open 7 days a week, weather permitting.