(Three Junkies, Jim Kelly and Bret Oliverio, on the far right.)

See, Oliverio spent most of his life wanting to work in guy radio, and he’s been making a living at it so since graduating from James Madison. He was hired as an assistant producer with the Junkies in early 2004, eventually became the show’s executive producer, and in September was promoted to assistant program director of WJFK while still producing for the Junkies.

“I come to work, I laugh every single day and I’m entertained every single day,” the 30-year old told me last week. “And a lot of people can’t say that. It’s not something I took for granted.” 

So why is he leaving? Well, early this fall, Oliverio’s younger brother Derek died from smoke inhalation in a North Carolina house fire. Then 27, Derek had poured himself into Sup Dogs for three years, turning his long-time vision a fixture of the East Carolina community while drafting plans for future expansion.

The restaurant closed for just one day after Derek’s death, and the local staff has done what Bret called “an amazing job” of keeping the restaurant humming. But ownership passed to Bret, his parents and three siblings, and as the big brother looked at the financial documents and thought about Derek’s vision, he started considering a drastic career change.

“It would just be hard for me to put all my energy and effort into radio when I know my brother’s dream and our family business is out there,” he said. “Derek’s dream was not just to have this concept in one city, but to be much bigger. I felt like in order for us to grow the business and make it everything Derek wanted to be, someone from our family had to be down there and learn the business from top to bottom,”

And so instead of managing four quirky on-air personalities and a part-time staff of 15, massaging publicists and sales people, and piloting a morning show that mixes appearances from Washington’s biggest sports figures with Donks of the Week segments, Oliverio will be putting his business degree to work.

He was, I should point out, a pretty remarkable success in radio, having started as an 18-year old Lake Braddock grad who volunteered for the Junkies one day a week.

“The best producer we’ve ever had, and we’ve had some very good ones,” wrote Eric Bickel, one of the Junkies. “He’s unflappable. People can be raving out around him and his demeanor and poise never changed.  He never yelled back. Never lost his cool.” 

He was also a fixture on the show, where he was regularly mocked for eating nothing but chicken sandwiches, believing Jersey Shore to be fine art, and religiously following celebrities on Twitter.

He plans to keep up with the show after his move, although working at a restaurant that stays open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends doesn’t mesh very well with morning drive radio. 

Which is hardly the only reason a few people have told him he’s foolish. He’s never worked in a restaurant – although his wife has – and he’s leaving a prized job at a station he used to drive by as a teenager, hoping to spot the talent.

“People have said you’re crazy, you’re an idiot,” he said. “It sounds kind of cliché, but when someone close to you passes away, you realize that life is fleeting, and some times you have to take chances. It’s one of these things that feels right for me to do.”

(Photo via EB’s World.)