FRESNO, Calif. -- A Reedley couple had no idea they were about to set off a global love affair with luffa sponges.
What started out as a hobby for Nathan and Sherri Pauls has now become a full-time job. Nathan actually retired a few years ago.
Luffa sponges now take up most of the space inside the Pauls' kitchen and living room. Orders have been coming in from all over the US and beyond.
RELATED: See how sponges are grown at California's Luffa Gardens
Nathan Pauls explained, "Just this morning, I filled some from Germany, Belgium, UK, Australia."
An Action News story in July gave 'Luffa Gardens' a boost at the Old Town Farmers Market. But when the product was featured on our ABC digital brand 'Localish,' which airs coast to coast and on social media, it drew over 12 million views.
LOCALISH STORY: See how sponges are grown at California's Luffa Gardens
Paul said, "We never expect this to happen. Our business has blown up and I'm not eating or sleeping basically."
4-5 hours a night is all he gets and he has to turn his phone off. "Every time an order comes in it goes 'Bing!'"
Luffas aren't just used for the shower and kitchen. He showed us smaller sponges, "My wife and daughter use these every single day. These are facial scrubbers."
Many consumers think luffa is a sea sponge but these actually grow on the vine in Nathan's backyard. He hopes to have them harvested before the winter freeze. Paul said, "We always wait for them to turn completely yellow or brown."
They're not ready until they start to dry.
'Luffa Gardens' has clearly shaken up the market. The cucumber-like vegetable needs to soak in water so Nathan can take the skin off.
Paul still had a luffa supply from the July harvest. After they're shipped, Nathan may have to take a production break.
He said, "It had started to slow down a little bit and now has started to resurge and I'm tired but I'm very grateful."
Next season Nathan Pauls will put up a greenhouse installed so he can meet a suddenly growing demand for his products. He'll also have to hire help to move this organic, biodegradable sponge to the market. He said, "It's the greatest thing."
Paul has been waking up at 3:30 in the morning to start filling those orders. His wife Sherri helps out when she comes home from her teaching job.
CA couple surprised by global love affair for their luffa sponges
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