ALBANY -- Outgoing chamber of commerce President Tod Abbott remembers when Ellen Graves opened her K2TOG shop in Albany.
"When she first opened her store, we had a mixer there, and we all turned to each other and said, 'She's great; we need to get her on the board,' " Abbott recalled.
Now, with Abbott stepping aside to concentrate on his campaign for City Council, Graves is stepping into the Albany chamber's presidency.
"My personal focus is helping retailers, mostly the bricks and mortars people, the people who have to pay rent," Graves said.
Abbott has served as president of the chamber for most of the last five years -- he left the post for about a year and a half and then returned -- and will remain on the board of the business advocacy organization, founded in the early 1930s.
"I only have so much energy, and I just didn't think I could continue to do a decent job as president while running this campaign," he said. "It also would have been a little awkward, wanting to be doing right by both commitments."
Enter Graves. She grew up in Texas and moved to the Bay Area to take a dot-com job in 1997. She attended graduate school at UC Berkeley, living in University Village at the time.
After living in various spots around the Bay Area, she came back to Albany five years ago to open K2TOG, which celebrated its anniversary earlier this month.
K2TOG, at 1325 Solano Ave., is a storefront serving the area's knitting
Although Graves mentioned focusing on retail outlets, she said the chamber will continue to provide services for all businesses in Albany.
"We're continuing with the things that we've already been doing," she said. "My goal is being there to support and encourage the business community so especially new businesses are not in the dark about what's going on in the city of Albany.
"We want to support our longtime business owners, but I remember when I started my business, I remember being in the dark about who to talk to in the city of Albany for permits," Graves said.
One of Graves' initiatives will be to have a monthly breakfast for retail business owners. It will be part support group, part seminar as Graves said she would be inviting guest speakers to help business owners learn about things such as taxes.
Graves said Abbott did an excellent job for the chamber.
"Tod has been pivotal in some difficult decisions that we have had to make the last couple of years," she said. "He has really kept the chamber of commerce going and giving it a lot of guidance. Keeping the focus of the chamber on business and education. I really enjoyed the chamber meetings when he was leading them because he was really a lot of fun and has strong leadership skills."