Stern Office Furniture Inc., one of the area's largest office-furniture companies, has been acquired by Alco Standard Corp., a Pennsylvania conglomerate that is seeking a greater share of that furniture market.

Its acquisition by the conglomerate will enable Stern, a $35 million-a-year business based in Largo, Md., to expand its operations both locally and regionally, said President Andrew Stern, son of company founder Samson B. Stern.

The companies declined to disclose the price of the sale.

The 39-year-old Stern company operates eight Office Furniture Marts in the Washington metropolitan area; a contract furniture sales division through Stern's, and a wholesale office furniture distribution division through All Sources Instock.

With the infusion of capital from Alco, Stern hopes to add about 25 new locations to the company's current eight over the next five years.

Stern also hopes some of these locations will be outside the Washington area. However, initially, he said, they will be within a 200-mile radius of the Largo warehouse, in such cities as Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia.

Under the acquisition announced last week, Andrew Stern will remain as company president. However, co-chairmen Samson Stern, 68, and his brother Saul, 70, will step down.

Andrew Stern said the acquisition was needed to allow him to complete his expansion plans and to permit the co-founders to retire.

"With the growth I want to build, it would have been difficult to buy out the founders and finance growth at the same time," he said.

Alco, based in Valley Forge, Pa., is a $3.4 billion distributing and manufacturing company that owns, among other things, a number of paper companies.

The conglomerate also owns six office copier companies nationwide.

The acquisition of Stern will enable Alco to expand its office-supply operations into the office-furniture market as well.