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Mr. Wien: The man behind Clemson game days

Lexi Bylykbashi, Contributor
John Agostino, aka Mr. Wien, is adding a new live music venue to Itsurwiener this fall.

Game day. Mimosas. Mr. Wien. Three powerful, exciting words that mean nothing to the general population. But these three enticements lure a Saturday morning parade to the steps of Itsurwiener, a Clemson hotspot.

John Agostino, more commonly known as “Mr. Wien,” is not only the owner of one of Clemson’s most famous game day bars, but a local celebrity as well.

Although quite popular, Agostino remains a mystery to many students.

“The crazy thing is that I know nothing about him,” Ashley Rosenthal, a senior criminal justice and sociology major, said. “Not even his name; he’s like a mystery or something.”

Agostino was born in Brooklyn, New York, but moved with his family to Florida when he was six. He and his wife moved to Clemson in 1995. Agostino has had experience in many industries: He ran a Toyota dealership, dabbled in real estate and owned both a pizza joint and a restaurant and bar. He is also a self-published author.

But Agostino had a vision.

“I wanted to open a place where you could get pretty much anything you wanted, on top of a hot dog,” Agostino said. “I also wanted to have our employees greet customers by saying, ‘It’s your wiener, do what you want with it.’ And that’s where the name ‘Itsurwiener’ came from.”

Itsurwiener opened in 2018 at 101 Keith St. in Clemson, but it wasn’t all fun and games at first.

“My wife and I were there all the time,” he recalled. “We had a cot in the office where we took turns taking naps. It was brutal at first.”

Pretty soon, students began noticing how often Agostino was around.

“It was as if a switch had flipped after that first year,” Agostino said.

The bar’s customers nicknamed him and his wife Mr. and Mrs. Wien.

Agostino is not only adored for his entrepreneurial success — his welcoming, consistent presence at Itsurwiener is what makes his customers return.

“Mr. Wien goes out of his way to make sure everyone has the best time when they step into his bar — whether that be with new drinks, great deals or even just fun music,” Kaitlyn Doherty, a senior health science major, said. “He is always around with a smile on his face and wants to talk to everyone who comes in.”

But according to Agostino’s plans, there is always work to be done.

Agostino “is a hard boss because he has a business plan in mind and wants it executed,” Emerson Pace, an employee at Itsurwiener, said. “But he always looks out for his people, especially when push comes to shove.”

Last year, Agostino opened “Wien Beach” — an outdoor seating area around the back of the bar.

This year, he is currently working on a new bar, located in the space below Itsurwiener. Complete with a dance floor and stage, it will feature live music and be called “The Basement.” The Basement is set to open on Sept. 7.

When Agostino isn’t tending to his restaurant duties, he finds time to write books. He said getting his books published was a tough process; self-publishing was a way to put his books out there.

“Getting something published these days is so hard,” he explained, “You send it to them (publishers) and if they’re not interested, you’re done.”

While Agostino never thought about being a writer, he received praise from multiple teachers for essays he wrote in school. This praise had stuck with him, yet he never acted on it until he got his idea for his first book, “Distant Relatives,” while in church one day. “Distant Relatives” is a supernatural mystery novel that follows the story of an ex-Marine who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Agostino currently has two novels on Amazon — “Distant Relatives” and “Alternating Current: A Tesla Novel.” “Alternating Current” is a historical fiction thriller based on the inventions of Nikola Tesla. However, he has about 10 other books he is working on, all in different stages of completion. He hopes to find time to publish more novels, as writing is his favorite hobby.

Agostino has a special place in his heart for the students at Clemson University. He explained that they are the reason for his success, and he loves all the support that the students have given him over the years.

“It’s such a great place to live,” Agostino said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to move. We love Clemson.”

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