James “Buster” Corley, one of the co-founders of what would become the Dave & Buster’s chain — a pioneer in so-called “eatertainment” — has died of what police called a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was 72.

The genesis of Dave & Buster’s is the stuff of business lore. Corley was operating a bar and restaurant called Buster’s in Little Rock, Ark., while Dave Corriveau owned a saloon and arcade called Cash McCool’s a few doors away. The two noticed that many diners would visit the arcade either before or after their meal, so they wondered whether combining arcade games with a bar and elevated dining would be a viable business model. They opened their first Dave & Buster’s on Dallas’s “Restaurant Row” in December 1982, the venue proved to be a hit, and expansion of the brand followed.

Naming the venue also involved a complete lack of scientific marketing input. Corley and Corriveau had decided to use their first names — in Corley’s case, his nickname — and determined the order they would appear with the flip of a coin. The company could have just as easily been named Buster’s and Dave’s.

The partners operated the company as co-CEOs until selling it to Edison Brothers Stores in 1989, which later spun it off, a prelude to it being taken public. When the company acquired nine in-bankruptcy Jillian’s locations in 2004, it closed two and re-branded the others — all of which included bowling lanes. Today, Dave & Buster’s continues to operate seven locations with bowling — a total of 100 lanes — as an attraction.

Last summer, in an $835 million deal, Dave & Buster’s acquired the Main Event chain of bowling-based food-and-games venues. Main Event CEO Chris Morris became the chief executive officer of Dave & Buster’s and a member of its board. Kevin Sheehan had served as the eatertainment brand’s interim CEO since September 2021, following the retirement announcement of Brian Jenkins.

Corley’s daughter Kate told WFAA-TV that her father had recently suffered a stroke that deeply affected the communication and personality part of his brain. Corriveau died in 2015 at age 63.

“His 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,” a Dave & Buster’s representative said. “Buster’s passion for hospitality, his demand for excellence, and the deep care he had for his team members were unparalleled.”

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