Perhaps one of the most interesting dialogues - or whatever the right term is when more than 30 people weigh in on a topic - took place on the Journal's Facebook page last week and over the weekend. We posted a small news brief a week or so ago about the possibility that Starbucks, the well-known, nationwide restaurant chain perhaps best known for its (somewhat expensive) coffee, and out of nowhere came a flood of comments, roughly evenly divided between pro and con. What was impressive about it though was the tone and tenor of the conversation. While there were a few folks who weighed in with some terse, to-the-point assessments, most were thoughtful analyses or observations that illuminated issues around the differences between locally-owned, independent businesses and nationwide chains. That of course is hardly a new debate, and it's one that will continue, and there are pluses and minuses on both sides.

Any town or community benefits from a strong core of locally owned, mom and pop style small businesses. Such people are deeply invested in the community as well as the success of their business. The two go hand-in-hand. These are also the folks who will help out with worthy community projects, both in kind and in money.

But there's a big upside to playing host to larger scale, national chain-stores as well. For better or worse, Manchester has been defined (to the outside world) in recent years in large part by playing host to many well-known retail outlet-style shops. We think that on balance that has been a good thing for the town and the region, and has brought more wealth and opportunities than would have existed otherwise. Like anything else, intelligent regulations are needed to balance everything out and level the playing field when that's appropriate.

But most of the time, it's worked out well. What other towns in Vermont the size of Manchester can boast of having a Starbucks and a Subway restaurant interested in opening inside their town boundaries? Answer - none.

Starbucks would bring a new level of chic and uplift to the town, if when all is said and done, an application to open one is made and approved. We're a long way from there, and stuff can happen. If approved, we think it would bring more people into the area, benefiting a lot of other businesses. To those who may already be in the coffee-serving business, it's an opportunity and an incentive to up their game. Just as independent hardware stores around the country have learned that it is possible to compete with Home Depot, so too can coffee and pastry places that have been around for at least a couple of years.

It's exciting to see that Manchester is attracting interest from such places, and along with some new construction - the Marble Mill and the new library among them - there's a sense of new activity and dynamism in the air after a tough period of retrenchment. We wanted to thank the folks who contributed their comments on our Facebook page, and urge those who haven't visited there yet to read them and consider them. Along with the sentiments readers are expressing, you are seeing an example of the new interactive face of journalism, and that's exciting too.