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James 'Buster' Corley, co-founder of Dave & Buster's, dies aged 72

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James “Buster” Corley, one of the founders of the Dave & Buster’s entertainment chain, which offers a small dose of Las Vegas by combining a restaurant with a sprawling arcade, died in Dallas on Monday on his 72nd birthday.

The death was confirmed by the company.

Police said they responded to a report of a shooting at a home in the 6600 block of Yosemite Lane, and that the man who was shot died at a hospital after suffering “an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound”. Police have not identified the man, but Mr. Corley lived at an address on the block.

Speaking to Dallas television station WFAA, Corley’s daughter Kate Corley confirmed the death and said he had suffered a stroke four months ago “which caused severe damage to the communication and personality part of his brain.”

A spokesman for Dave & Buster’s said Corley was not involved in running the company when he died.

Dave & Buster’s, which now has more than 150 locations across North America, found success by combining several beloved activities under one roof: watch some sports, grab a burger, play a game. And unlike Chuck E. Cheese, the longtime kids’ birthday destination, Dave & Buster’s would prove its appeal to adults who also enjoy arcade games, air hockey and racing simulators. The restaurant invites guests to compete against friends or win tickets that can be redeemed for prizes as they navigate rows of brightly colored lights.

The Dave in Dave & Buster’s was David Corriveau, who died in 2015. He and Corley met in the 1970s in Little Rock, Ark., when they both owned businesses on the same street near the Capitol building. Mr. Corley owned a restaurant called Buster’s, while Mr. Corriveau owned a salon called Slick Willy’s World of Entertainment.

There was a walkway connecting the two establishments, and the men noticed that patrons would go to Slick Willy’s to gamble, then to Buster’s for food and drinks, Corley said in a 2020 interview on the “Pardon My Take” podcast.

Their thinking, he recalled, was “what we need to do is bring these two places together, put them on a bigger scale, put them in a bigger market and launch this.”

Dave & Buster’s first location opened in 1982 in a 40,000 square foot warehouse in Dallas. (The company says it was named Dave & Buster’s, not Buster & Dave’s, after a fateful coin toss, but Mr. Corley said on the podcast that the story was a “myth” and that a friend had suggested the name. )

Although Corriveau and Corley started out as business partners, they “along the way became best friends” and godfathers to each other’s children, Corley said on the podcast.

The company said in a statement that Corley’s “pioneering spirit and unshakable belief that ‘everybody is somebody’ laid the foundation for bringing food and games to millions of Dave & Buster guests over the past 40 years.”

James Winston Corley was born on January 2, 1951, in Brookhaven, a small town in southern Mississippi, to Jim Corley, who worked in advertising, and Nancy (Wentworth) Corley, a nursing home administrator.

He married Leacy Suddath in 1980. Information about survivors other than Corley’s daughter was not immediately available.

Corley said he was nicknamed Buster from birth, after his father’s closest friend. Before studying business in college, he said, he considered ditching the moniker in favor of something more distinguished, like J. Winston or JW. But his father dissuaded him, and he was glad he did.

“If we had called anything in my name, anything that wasn’t Buster’s,” he said, “it probably never would have worked.”

Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.

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