American Dreams Jola: Mother, Student, Business Owner

Winthrop residents have come to recognize Sofjola Thomai as the co-owner with her husband, Odise, of the Odyssey Grill and Restaurant at 63 Main St.

Known as “Jola” by her friends and customers, the 36-year-old native of Albania and mother of three also works in a key medical position far removed from the chicken kabob salads, mediterrean wings, and steak-and cheese subs that have made Odyssey one of the town’s most popular food establishments.

Since 2010 Jola has been working at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) as a critical care technician (CCT) in the surgical intensive care unit. She studied in a certified nursing assistant program before becoming a CCT.

Jola said she was on duty in the MGH trauma unit on the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings in April, 2013. She recalled the frantic hours as MGH physicians worked to assist bombing victims at the hospital.

“There were people arriving in critical condition,” she recalled. “I was there for 16 hours that day. It was an emotional scene for everyone involved. One or two months later, some people walked through our department to give us hugs and kisses and thank us for our efforts on that tragic day.”

She continues to work in the trauma unit at Mass. General on a part-time basis.


Arriving from Albania

The Thomais were high school sweethearts who married in Albania and lived in England for two-and-one-half-years. There she attended college, completing a program in makeup artistry. They moved to the United States and opened their restaurant in town in 2006.

They purchased a new home on Center Street in February and live there with their children, Vanesa, 13, Daniel, 12, and Era, 18 months.

“We had a condo at Governor’s Park before we decided to buy a home,” said Yola. “We’re going to raise our family here, give our children an education here, and hope to be part of Winthrop for many years to come. There’s a lot to love about Winthrop. It’s a quiet town and my family feels safe here. We have a great neighborhood.”


Pursuing her nursing degree

It’s been a busy past few years for Jola as she tries to balance running a restaurant, raising a family, and continuing her education.

While she was working at MGH, she attended UMass/Boston and studied exercise and health science. During her studies at UMass, she created “Healthy Body Challenge,” a six-week program in which faculty and staff participated. The highly successful initiative was featured in the UMass student newspaper.

In 2018, she resumed her education at Laboure’ College where she attained Dean’s List honors in the nursing program. She has four classes remaining in pursuit of her BSN degree in nursing.

“I hope to work as a nurse upon my graduation,” said Yola. “When it comes to seniors and children, there’s a big spot in my heart for them. My happiness is found helping others.” The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”

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