About Us

Meet Our Owners

Jerry & Joyce Garlick

Jerry & Joyce Garlick are longtime residents of Apalachicola, FL. 

Jerry worked for the Post Office delivering mail until 1995 - back in the days where you had to watch out for dogs laying in the middle of HWY 98. 
Joyce spent many years working in our local seafood insustry, sucking oysters. She now makes fine jewelry & crochets hats, gloves, shawls, headbands & much more.

They introduced themselves to the orignal Sponge Exchange building in 1995 as an antique vendor. 
Not long afterwards, the possibility of incorporating natural sea sponges into the business was looked into. Jerry is a certified diver of 20 years; now the only sponge broker on the Florida Panhandle. 
He deal with the Greek, Turkish & other international divers of the Gulf of Mexico.

We sell wholesale & retail sponges all across the country & thoroughly enjoy explaining the life of the sea sponge to visitors of our unique store. 

As of July 2014, we are welcoming all to our new location. We are now located in the historic Zingarelli building at 14 Avenue D (across the street from The Owl Cafe)

You will love what we have done with the place!
Please come & see us!

  • Top quality products
  • Great customer service
  • Antique showroom

About Our Sponges

The sea sponge is an interesting plant...or is it an animal? It grows from a hard surface, like lime rock or any hard bottom & filters water, using what it needs to live & exhausts the rest - all by means of an elaborate canal system. 

It also repopulates with spores - which is why when you find a certain species you find a grove of the same kind. When harvested, the sponge diver cuts the sponge off from the bottom leaving a portion of it to grow again. This makes the sponge a renewable product of the sea. 

Sponge divers are good stewards of the sea, when harvesting is done right. We only work with divers with proper harvest methods. To harvest, the sponge is cut with a sharp knife, leaving an inch or so to grow back. The sponge is then squeezed to release the spores into the same area to repopulate before tucking the sponge into a catch bag to them be brought up to the boat. 

An average sponge trip can be a month or more at sea depending on the crew & the weather. The average depth to dive for sponge is generally under one atmosphere or 33 ft. This depth provides the diver with maximum bottom time to harvest without having to surface. Any deeper & the bottom time will be reduced to avoid the bends. A top air compressor is used along with 100 - 300 ft of flex hose to send air to the divers face mask. A weight belt & any variety of work clothes make up the divers gear. Socks & tennis shoes have even been work before!

Once the sponges are aboard the boat they are all treated the same. Whether it is the yellow sponge, wool sponge, grass sponge, vase sponge or finger sponge - they must all be processed. Each sponge has a thin skin like membrane, called the gurry, that must be removed. Water pressure is also used to clean off the outer skin. This could take a few days per each load of sponge. The final product is the sponge skeleton or what you see for sale on our website & also in our store. 
Of course there are other processes the sponge must go through before being sold. 

The sea sponge is extremley durable & has many uses. The most common use is for bathing. 
Some other uses include: cleaning, painting, medical situations, decoration, etc.

So the answer is...
The sea sponge is a multi celled animal. They reproduce naturally, after being cut off or by their spores. Indeed, each sponge is unique & a marvel of creation. 
Your sponge has been caught right here in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Enjoy your treasure from the sea!!

Testimonials

"I always pick up a few goats milk soap with sea sponge when in SGI on vacation. I'm THRILLED that I can now get them anytime! My order came in quickly and just as described! Thank you!!!"
Rachel B.