Dave & Buster Together in HOF


Their names, once again, will be forever connected as inaugural legacy inductees to the Amusement Industry Hall of Fame. Of course, Dave Corriveau and Buster Corley are even more inextricably linked as the founders of the ever-popular Dave & Buster’s FEC chain.

James Winston “Buster” Corley was born January 2, 1951, in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Buster was an absolute legend to those who knew him. That was partly because he was the “Buster” in Dave & Buster’s but also because he touched so many lives.

People took a job at one of his restaurants expecting to work as a waiter or bartender for just a short time but instead, thanks to Buster, found themselves with a new purpose in life and a decades-long career.

At 17, Buster started dating his high school sweetheart, Leacy Suddath. After graduation in 1969, he started his hospitality career as a waiter for TGI Fridays in Jackson, Mississippi, working his way through the ranks and recruited to open and serve as general manager of TGI Fridays’ third location in Little Rock, Arkansas.

In 1978, after TGI Fridays fired him, he opened Buster’s at a nearby train station. There, he met his future business partner, who would become his best friend, Dave Corriveau, who at the time owned Slick Willys, an arcade and game room also at the train station. After watching the customers rotate between the two locations, Dave and Buster hatched the idea of combining the two places, moving it to Dallas and making it grander in size. The first Dave & Buster’s opened with the slogan “There’s No Place Quite Like It” in 1982.

That first D&B in Dallas was 40,000 sq. ft. and cost $3 million to build. It had two bars, shuffleboard, tournament-quality billiard tables, a midway with a million dollars’ worth of arcade games, and the unique opportunity for people to enjoy these activities while also eating gourmet food and having cocktails.

Combining a restaurant with an arcade may seem like a no-brainer today but Dave and Buster were the first to invent this new “eatertainment” industry. Leacy oversaw the research and development of D&B’s food until 2007; her goal was to have it rival that at any four-star restaurant in the U.S.

Buster lived by the motto that “Everyone Is Somebody” and should be treated with kindness and respect. At his restaurant, Buster’s, he welcomed each guest as if he’d known them for a lifetime. Buster made them feel welcome and made sure they enjoyed themselves and wanted to return. The same attention to hospitality continued when he opened D&B; every guest was made to feel special. Buster’s charisma was legendary; it was the heart of Dave and Buster’s.

Dave was the fun; Buster was the motivation. He would say, “I am only as strong as my team,” and attributed his success to the people he worked with. Buster wouldn’t ask anyone to do something unless he had done it first. Buster’s passion for hospitality, his demand for excellence, and his deep love for what he always called his “team” was truly unparalleled.

David Oliver “Dave” Corriveau, “The Legend of Fun,” was born September 15, 1951 in Madison, Wisconsin. Growing up in North Little Rock, Arkansas, Dave’s entrepreneurial skills came at an early age when he bought an old food truck and converted it into a snow cone truck. He drove around North Little Rock and Little Rock selling snow cones at parks and events.

He saw the vison to scale even at that early age and bought three more truck fixing them up and hiring his friends to sell snow cones. In 1975, after working as a blackjack dealer in Las Vegas, Dave came back to his hometown of Little Rock to open his first bar and arcade, Cash McCool’s Saloon and Game Parlor, a converted 7-Eleven. With the success of Cash McCool’s, Dave decided it was time to open another establishment but this time in downtown Little Rock’s historic train station.

After opening Slick Willy’s world of Entertainment in 1977 he developed what would be a life changing partnership when he met James “Buster” Corley. Buster welcomed him to the neighborhood by sending flowers to the grand opening of Slick Willy’s. Dave, being so impressed by the classy gesture had to meet the man that reached out to welcome him.

The friendship grew and when Buster decided to open his own restaurant he opened “Buster’s” next door to Slick Willy’s. The two met frequently and discussed how business was. The partnership began when they literally cut a window in-between Buster’s and Slick Willy’s to serve the patrons at Slicks.

Dave’s attention to details and obsession with, “If you aren’t changing, you’re standing still,” kept D&B on the front line of growth. His “Ideal Playing Conditions” were the bible for how a Dave and Buster’s was set up and maintained. Progressive thinking and ideas like a golf simulator set up in a country club atmosphere inside the midway or a card swipe system to operate the games and eliminate coin jams are few examples of how D&B helped change the industry.


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