Is Telfair Pets a Real Pet Store in Savannah? Did Mary Kay Letourneau Work at a Pet Shop?

Netflix’s ‘May December’ presents a fictionalized version of the real story of Mary Kay Letourneau. Julianne Moore’s role in the movie closely resembles Letourneau’s arc in real life and her scandalous romance with Vili Faulaau, who is painted into the character of Joe Yoo. While the skeleton of their story remains the same, there are several details in the film that are changed to give Gracie and Joe a distance from Letourneau and Fualaau’s real-life romance. How does the pet store fit into it?

The Pet Store is a Fictional Element in the Movie

In the movie, it is revealed that Gracie Atherton was working at a pet store named Telfair Pets when she first met Joe Yoo, who was hired to assist her in the shop. This is where the couple began their affair, which heated up as they used the store as a front for their meetings. In the guise of being co-workers, they could spend a lot of time with each other without falling under anyone’s suspicion.

Years later, actress Elizabeth Berry visits the store to see the place where the affair began and took flight. She imagines herself in Gracie’s place and having sex with Joe in the backroom of the store. The store gains infamy after it features as a central location in the TV movies and documentaries about the couple, where Gracie is seen seducing a young Joe. All of this is a fictional touch to the story. Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Faulaau didn’t work in a pet store. Instead, they were teacher and student.

Image Credits: 7NEWS Spotlight/ Youtube

Letourneau was nearing her mid-thirties and had already taught Fualaau a few years back. He was in sixth grade when she claimed to have fallen to his advances. At the time, she was married and had four kids, one of whom was quite close to Fualaau in age. The young Vili had a talent for art, and Letourneau helped him develop that talent, which allowed them to spend a lot of time together.

Soon, things turned sexual between them. It started with a kiss, but things progressed quickly, and according to Fualaau’s testimony in the 2002 civil trial, they had “sex in the gym, in the girls’ bathroom, and in her classroom.” Letourneau claimed she didn’t know that having sexual relations with a minor was a crime and that she never felt guilty for doing it because she and Fualaau were in love with each other. He, too, refused to call himself a victim and claimed that it was nothing but love between them.

When Samy Burch started working on a screenplay, she tried not to think too much about Letourneau and Fualaau. She was aware of their case but didn’t want Gracie and Joe’s story to be an imitation of that. Instead, her focus was to tell “a fictional story that dealt with this tabloid culture of the ’90s that has kind of seemingly led into this true-crime biopic world we’re in now, and kind of question that transition and why we want to keep recreating these stories.” This called for some wiggle room when it came to the details of the relationship and the way some things needed to be handled, especially in the method of unfolding the narrative.

The addition of Elizabeth Berry meant that the story had to have some fictional elements, and to distance Gracie and Joe from their real-life counterparts, they received a slightly distorted version of the real-life events. In reality, there is no pet store named Telfair Pets in Savannah. In fact, the affair between Letourneau and Fualaau took place in Seattle, not Savannah, and instead of a pet store, the school became the place where their shocking romance blossomed.

Read More: Did Mary Kay Letourneau go to Prison? Did She Have a Baby There?