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 an extensive video arcade, died in Dallas on Monday, his 72nd birthday.
His death was confirmed by the company.
The police said that 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.” The police did not identify the man, but Mr. Corley lived at an address on the block.
In a statement to the Dallas television station WFAA, Kate Corley, Mr. Corley’s daughter, confirmed the death and said he had suffered a stroke four months ago “that caused severe damage to the communication and personality part of his brain.”
A spokesman for Dave & Buster’s said that Mr. Corley had not been involved in company management at his death.
Dave & Buster’s, which now has more than 150 locations in North America, found success by combining several beloved activities under one roof: Watch some sports, eat a burger, play a game. And unlike Chuck E. Cheese, the longtime birthday destination for children, Dave & Buster’s would prove its appeal to adults who also cherish arcade games, air hockey and racing simulators. The restaurant invites visitors to compete against friends, or to win tickets that can be exchanged for prizes while navigating through rows of bright, colorful lights.
The Dave in Dave & Buster’s was David Corriveau, who died in 2015. He and Mr. 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 named Buster’s, while Mr. Corriveau owned a parlor named Slick Willy’s World of Entertainment.
There was a walkway connecting the two establishments, and the men noticed that customers would go to Slick Willy’s to play games, then over to Buster’s to eat and drink, Mr. Corley said in a 2020 interview on the podcast “Pardon My Take.”
Their thought, he recalled, was “What we need to do is we need to put these two places together, put them on a bigger scale, put them in a bigger market and launch this thing.”
The first Dave & Buster’s 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, because of a fateful coin flip, but Mr. Corley said on the podcast that the story was a “myth” and that a friend had suggested the name.)
Though Mr. Corriveau and Mr. Corley started as business partners, they “along the way became best friends” and godfather to each other’s children, Mr. Corley said on the podcast.
The company said in a statement that Mr. Corley’s “pioneering spirit and steadfast belief that ‘everybody is somebody’ set the foundation for bringing food and games to millions of Dave & Buster’s guests over the past 40 years.”
James Winston Corley was born on Jan. 2, 1951, in Brookhaven, a small city 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 on survivors other than Mr. Corley’s daughter was not immediately available.
Mr. Corley said he had been nicknamed Buster since birth after his father’s closest friend. Before studying business in college, he said, he considered dropping the nickname in favor of something more distinguished, like J. Winston or J.W. But his father talked him out of it, and he was glad he did.
“Had we called it anything in my name, anything other than Buster’s,” he said, “it probably never would have worked.”
Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.