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Posted on January 1, 2018 | 6:04 p.m.

Doris C. Mitchell, of Solvang, 1931-2017


Doris Christiansen Mitchell
Doris Christiansen Mitchell

Doris Christiansen Mitchell of Solvang passed away on Dec. 30, 2017, at Atterdag Village after a struggle with memory loss. She was 86.

Born a first generation American citizen along with her two sisters and brother, Doris grew up in Solvang. Her parents, Anne Helga and Christian Christiansen, were immigrants to the U.S. from Jutland, Denmark.

They settled first in Flandreau, South Dakota, then quickly realized the warmer temperatures of a Danish community named for “sunny fields” might be more palatable.

At age 2 in 1933, Doris took a cross-country train trip to her new home. She would live in Solvang for the rest of her life, found a successful local business, and raise three daughters.

While attending Solvang Elementary School, Doris spoke English at school and Danish at home. Her mother was widowed in 1945 and supported her four teenage children with work as a seamstress.

Doris had three siblings: Elsie, Edith and Harry. All preceded her in death.

After attending Santa Ynez Valley Union High School (class of 1949), Doris married Donald Doll, a high school classmate, that same year. They had three daughters: Dianne, Debra and Donna.

Doris was widowed when Don Doll died in a plane crash in 1961. Undaunted by the reality of raising three young girls on her own, she persevered.

In addition to the success of her children, Doris was quietly proud of her business, Solvang Children’s Shop — formerly Solvang Baby Gift Store — which she started at 1666 Copenhagen Drive in 1970.

The “baby store” as her family always called it, has been at the same location for the entirety of its 47 years.

Taking a chance on starting a business she knew Solvang needed after being unable to shop in town for her first granddaughter, Doris and her daughters began traveling to Los Angeles several times a year to select children’s clothing from national brands.

Repeat customers often remark that three generations of their family have shopped for that perfect gift or outfit at the Solvang shop. It was Doris’ exceptional taste that made the business work.

A custom-created line of Danish-style dresses, available only at the Solvang Children’s Shop, has been worn by thousands of girls for Danish Days and Scandinavian holidays.

Even as she struggled with her memory, Doris sharply noticed that the Danish dress her great-granddaughter Laurel had on last September “was the largest size, and that was it after that.”

After her daughters Debra and Donna joined the business, it expanded to three stores, including the Children’s Boutique in Santa Barbara and Charlie’s Playhouse in Solvang. Today, Debra and Donna co-own and operate the flagship store.

In addition to running her business, Doris was a devoted grandmother. She was active in the lives of her five grandchildren, often picking them up from Solvang School and SYVUHS.

True to her Danish roots, Doris was an exceptional cook and baker, talented gardener, and always had an immaculately clean home. Her apple pies and pebbernodder cookies remain family favorites, and her recipes are treasured.

Every Christmas Eve, Doris hosted a Danish celebration with shrimp cocktail, prime rib, scalloped potatoes, house-made blue cheese salad dressing, and traditional rice pudding with raspberry sauce.

Her grandchildren all recall Christmas Eves at her house as the highlight of every holiday season.

After the death of her first husband, Doris remarried to Sheriff’s deputy and real estate agent Renton Mitchell, in 1963. Renton’s children Robbie and Margaret joined the family.

Doris and Renton enjoyed many travel adventures and the company of mutual friends. He preceded her in death in 2012.

Doris is survived by her daughters, Dianne (Ben) Etling, Debra (William) Etling, and Donna (Mark) Oliver; and her grandchildren Lisa Etling, Leah Etling, Will (Abigail) Etling, Anna (Ryan) Kloch and Peter Oliver.

She had five great-grandchildren: Laurel Etling Socolow, Ian and Ellery Kloch, and Mercer and Rowan Etling, who brought her joy and smiles.

Her family is grateful for the exceptional care she received at Atterdag Village of Solvang for the last two years. Interment will be private.

— Leah Etling




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